HILO — The massive wildfires that have threatened Pahala continued to be held in check Saturday, thanks to the hard work of firefighters, as well as a little help from Mother Nature.
Hawaii County Fire Department Battalion Chief Warren Sumida said late Saturday afternoon that the fire had failed to spread during the day, and county firefighters were working to keep it under control.
“Right now, it hasn’t spread, so they’re just trying to keep it from flaring up again, checking out hotspots,” he said.
The 400-acre fire area mauka of Pahala remained about 95 percent contained, according to a Saturday evening press release, with firefighters monitoring the situation and extinguishing hot spots along the perimeter.
Meanwhile, the larger makai area of the fire closer to Pahala Town was approximately 60 percent contained. That fire has so far consumed more than 4,800 acres. Firefighters there were monitoring the situation and maintaining a perimeter along fire breaks and extinguishing hot spots as necessary.
The larger fire required firefighters to concentrate their efforts on its northern and southern flanks, the release stated.
As for factors outside of the fire department’s control, Sumida said the weather has continued to lend a helping hand. The blaze had consumed thousands of acres previously in the week, but rain showers helped to subdue it. On Saturday, low winds and cooler weather helped to maintain the situation.
“The weather’s been really good out there today,” Sumida said. “It has been overcast and cool, and that helps it a lot.”
On Friday, Pahala Fire Capt. Shawn Hayashida explained that the fires are expected to burn themselves out, although it was unlikely for the larger fire to ever be more than 60 percent contained, due to the difficulty of reaching some areas to create a fire break.
All roads remained open and no evacuation advisories were in effect Saturday, Sumida said. He said that so far firefighters and area residents had been lucky, with no injuries to those fighting the fires, and little property damage, apart from the damage to the coffee and macadamia nut orchards in the area.
Sumida added that the fire department and police department were continuing their investigations into the causes of the fires, which he described as suspicious.
“It’s kind of strange that we would have two separate fires like that so far apart,” he said.