Two fast-moving brush fires have scorched approximately 250 acres on both sides of Highway 11 in Pahala and forced the evacuation of a nearby hospital, Hawaii County Fire Department Fire Department Battalion Chief Aaron Arbles said Monday evening.
Ka‘u Hospital has been evacuated. Its 15 patients, along with staff, have been relocated to the Naalehu Community Center, which is serving as a shelter for area residents who cannot stay in their homes because of heavy smoke. No mandatory evacuations of homes have been ordered, Arbles said.
Meanwhile more than 50 firefighters are “aggressively” fighting the fires, located makai and mauka of the highway between mile markers 50 and 51. Bulldozer crews are cutting fire breaks. The Fire Department is concerned about one of the fires, which is moving closer to a 10,000-gallon diesel storage area. Nevertheless, fire crews are making repeated assaults on the blazes, which are being fanned by strong winds, Arbles said.
The highway is closed in both directions in the affected area and motorists should take another route, according to the Hawaii Police Department.
The cause of the fires and whether they are related is still unknown. No further information was available as of press time.