North Shore blaze contained; trail reopened

NA PALI COAST — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources yesterday morning reopened the Kalalau Trail after containing a weeklong fire in Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, officials said.

The DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Sunday made its last on the ground monitoring effort of a blaze that burned some 50 acres of vegetation east of Hanakapi‘ai Stream.

“The fire at this time is 100 percent contained, meaning that the fire is not anticipated to escape due to the perimeter edges being extinguished,” DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said in a statement Monday evening. “The size of the burned area has remained at 50 acres since the second day.”

The fire reportedly started the night of Aug. 16, but the cause remains under investigation. No injuries have been reported.

The Kaua‘i Fire Department used its Zodiac to shuttle 40 stranded hikers on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 from Hanakapi‘ai Beach to Ke‘e Beach two miles away where Kuhio Highway ends on the North Shore, county officials said.

There have been no additional stranded hikers since the initial two days, Ward said.

The fire poses no threat to humans and there is no significant risk to threatened and endangered plant communities, she said.

Two “hotspots” remain in the burned area above the trail, near the top edge of the fire and out of reach of state fire crews due to the steep and inaccessible terrain, Ward said. These are most likely koa and ohia stumps that are smoldering underground, but being within the burned contained area will eventually burn themselves out.

DLNR has asked Inter-Island Helicopters, which assisted with water drops to contain the fire, to help monitor the area from the air for any possible flare-ups while conducting tours along Na Pali Coast.

DLNR’s Division of State Parks did a trail assessment last Friday and found the trail to be undamaged by the fire, Ward said.

A park crew on Monday removed a few loose boulders on the slopes just above the trail that were exposed when the fire burned low-growing vegetation, she said.

The Kalalau Trail is a world-renowned 11-mile one-way hike that starts at Ke‘e Beach and ends at Kalalau Valley, skirting coastal cliffs and lush valleys. Signs were posted on Aug. 18 noting its closure due to hazardous conditions.

State Parks employees had called 200 camping permit holders as of Friday to notify them of the trail closure. They may apply for refunds on their permits, Ward said.

DLNR reminds the public that drought conditions continue on most islands.

Campers in state parks, forest reserves and campgrounds are reminded to take precautions when using camp stoves and barbecue grills. Open fires on the ground are prohibited.

Hunters and hikers should also avoid smoking on trails and hunting areas, Ward said.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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