Update Tuesday morning, January 19, 5 a.m.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Ben Fuata reports that fire crews are on the scene of the Pahala fires, and that the fires have not been contained. At first light, the Hawaii County Fire Department helicopters will resume water drop operations and they will have bulldozers in place to create fire breaks. The last acreage count of the burns is around 600 acres total.
Fuata reported the Ka’u/Pahala Hospital patients, all long-term care patients, were all evacuated last evening to the Na’alehu Community Center. The 15 patients and staff are safe and using the Community Center as their home for now. Although the hospital was not in danger, the patients were evacuated as a precaution and because of heavy smoke in the area.
Highway 11 reopened Monday evening around 9 p.m. but motorists are still urged to avoid the area and to use caution if in the area.
There have been no injuries. No homes nor structures have burned, although the fire is close to one home and a fire crew is at that home. The family has not yet evacuated.
Update Monday, January 18, 5 p.m.:
Deputy Fire Chief Glen Honda gave a 5 p.m. Monday update on two fires in the Pahala Area.
Highway County Police Department says Highway 11 is closed between the 50 and 51 mile marker and traffic is being turned around.
Chief Honda said there is an approximately 300-acre fire just makai of Pahala Town, and firefighters are especially working at the main Pahala intersection to ensure the Pahala Hospital and nearby residences are protected. There is a lot of gusty wind that is making the fire fighting a challence.
Chief Honda said there is also a 300-acre fire above Pahala, near Cane Haul Road.
The Na’alehu Community Center is open as an evacuation center, for any residents who wish to leave their homes. However, the Community Center is merely a space, with restrooms, and anybody going there should bring their own food, water, and supplies for their temporary stay there.
The National Weather Service says gusty winds should continue until at least 6 p.m. Hawaiian Electric Light Company also said they’ve lost several power poles due to wind.
Chief Honda said they do not know the cause of the fires. He also said the brush fire earlier today, around Mile Marker 46, was probably not related to the two current fires.