Cabin owners begin evacuating Hikimoe fire

LIHU‘E — Department of Land and Natural Resources fire crews continue working to prevent the eastern (mauka) flank of the Hikimoe fire from jumping the Pu‘u Ka Pele Forest Reserve contour road.

DLNR Public Information Specialist Deborah Ward said the road is now closed with the fire moving in the direction of the cabins in the Pu‘u Ka Pele section of Waimea Canyon State Park. The Hikimoe ridge fire is very active with a flaming front, and she said it is challenging for fire crews to suppress the fire due to dry fuels, low humidity and strong and erratic winds.

Kaua‘i County Civil Defense and Kaua‘i Police Department notified individuals in this park section that they should consider voluntarily evacuating via the main park road early Wednesday morning. Ward said that at its closest point the fire front is less than a quarter-mile away from the nearest structures.

It is not yet known when people will be able to return.

“We urge the public to heed the existing evacuation notice for their own safety and the safety of the fire fighters,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “Crews are on alert to prevent any outbreak of the fire east of the contour road that would threaten or damage cabins and park facilities in this area.”

DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) also closed hunting units A and J in the forest reserve for the remainder of the hunting season, which closes this Saturday, for public safety. Notices of the fire closure will be posted at the Koke‘e and Pu‘u ‘Opae Hunter Checking Stations.

Pu‘u Lua Reservoir and trout fishing are also closed to public safety, until further notice. The gate is closed at the 12-mile marker on Highway 550.

A helicopter flight this morning showed the fire size at 410 acres, including a separate spot fire located one and a half miles to the west of the main flank on Polihale Ridge. Spot fires exemplify extreme fire behavior and occur when hot embers are tossed across the fire line by strong winds. Embers can land and start new fires fairly far away depending on weather conditions.

As of Wednesday there are a total of 44 DOFAW personnel from Kaua‘i, Maui and O‘ahu on the fire line or providing logistical support. Also assisting are 10 Kaua‘i Fire Department firefighters and two County Public Works personnel with a water tender.

The firefighters are aided by a D-6 bulldozer, a 10,000-gallon and a 4,000-gallon water tender, three contract hire helicopters and County Fire’s Air One helicopter.

The fire is burning in a eucalyptus tree plantation planted in the 1970s. Some of the trees are 85 to 120 feet tall.

Weather conditions remain hot and dry with low humidity. Strong easterly winds making fire behavior and direction of spread difficult to predict.

A fuel tanker carrying jet fuel to helicopters flipped onto its side Tuesday evening in the vicinity of the Koke‘e Road and Kekaha Road junction. It spilled an unconfirmed amount of jet fuel, closing the road until Wednesday morning.

A county news release stated that the Kaua‘i Hazmat team responded to the scene and placed absorbent materials to assist in the clean up and help to suppress fumes.

Bradley Pacific Aviation, the company that owns the tanker, is working with the Department of Health to manage the clean up.


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