Highway 11 reopened Wednesday afternoon while firefighters kept busy working to halt a now 5,000 acre brush fire in Pahala.
Highway 11, the lone means of traversing South Hawaii, reopened about 3 p.m. to both lanes of travel, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense. The road, between Kamani Street and mile marker 46, had been closed since noon Tuesday.
The makai fire, one of two brush fires burning in the Pahala area, was estimated at 5,000 acres Wednesday afternoon, said Hawaii Fire Department East Hawaii Battalion Chief Aaron Arbles. The fire is listed at 40 percent contained, but continues to spread.
Ka‘u Hospital, which was closed Monday and Tuesday because of smoke from the fire, reopened its emergency room Tuesday evening. No update was currently available for the 15 long-term care patients evacuated Monday to the Naalehu Community Center.
While firefighters Tuesday were able to keep the fire from crossing Highway 11, Arbles said the blaze managed to jump the roadway during the night and spread mauka between mile markers 49 and 51. The department is moving most of its resources to the area to keep the spot fires, some of which continue to burn, at bay, he added.
A Hawaii County Department of Public works 5,000-gallon tanker and three 2,500 gallon tankers are working to wet down the roadside. Dozers are being relocated to the area to establish a perimeter. About 30 fire department personnel and a county helicopter are fighting the blaze.
A second 400-acre brush fire burning above Pahala off Cane Haul Road continues to burn but is listed at 95 percent contained, Arbles said.