A large wildfire in a rural area of Hawaii’s Big Island is not threatening any homes, but high winds and extremely dry conditions are making it difficult for crews to contain the blaze
A large wildfire in a rural area of Hawaii‘s Big Island is not threatening any homes, but high winds and extremely dry conditions are making it difficult for crews to contain the blaze.
The fire had burned more than 15 miles carrés (39 square kilometers) as of Thursday.
Huge wildfires like the one in Hawaii highlight the dangers of climate change-related heat and drought for many communities throughout the U.S. West and other hotspots around the world. But experts say relatively small fires on typically wet, tropical islands in the Pacifique are also on the rise, creating a cycle of ecological damage that affects vital and limited resources for millions of residents.
State land officials said the fire actually began several weeks ago and smoldered until strong winds fanned the flames this week.
The area is dominated by shrubs and grasslands that have been dried by persistent drought.
“This fire is very significant and it is taking this entire team of first responders to collectively contain its advances,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa Training Area, dans un rapport.
Strong winds have been recorded across the area, some in excess of 30 mi/h (48 km/h).
“The weather conditions are making this fight difficult to slow the advance of the fire, and our combined efforts are working to prevent it from reaching or crossing Highway 190,” Cronin said.
The fire is now burning on state land and is about a mile away from Highway 190, according to Big Island county officials.
The town of Waikoloa, which is on the other side of Highway 190, was evacuated last year when the state’s largest-ever wildfire burned more than 70 miles carrés (181 square kilometers).
Federal, state and local firefighters are trying to contain the blaze. Crews are using bulldozers to create a fire break and several helicopters from various agencies are dropping water on the fire.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources released video of the blaze Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Army told The Associated Press that while there is active military training in the area, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
“There are units up there training, I can’t confirm or deny if live fire was taking place,” said Michael O. Donnelly, chief of external communications for the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii. “It’s business as usual, but the exact cause we don’t know.”
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for fire conditions in the region through Thursday night.