The Puna lava flow has sparked a brushfire that's now burning through open grasslands in a remote area above Apa'a Road to the west of Highway 130. Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials say no structures or properties are threatened. At this point, no firefighters have been dispatched, however -- the Hawaii Fire Department and the State Department of Forestry are working to contain the fire and to prevent any threat to neighboring communities.
According to a pilot who flew above the brushfire Saturday afternoon, it appears to have already scorched nearly 100 acres and is moving very quickly through dry brush toward the Ainaloa.
Sources say numerous calls from concerned residents have reported heavy smoke in the area and ash.
Officials say the lava flow has not advanced since Saturday morning and does not present an immediate threat to area communities.
Officials say the Puna lava flow is continuing to slow down as it widens, though it's still headed directly toward Pahoa town. According to Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials, Saturday morning's flyover indicated the leading edge or front of the flow is now approximately 150 yards wide. Geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say based on measurements provided by the Civil Defense overflight Saturday morning — the flow advanced no more than 50 yards since the USGS flyover on Friday at Noon.
"Daily fluctuations in flow advance rate like this are common for pahoehoe lava flows. It is not yet clear if this reduction in advance rate is due to a drop in lava supply or simply the flow front filling a small local depression - in either case the advance rate could rise again in the coming days,” USGS geologists said in an update released Saturday morning.
According to the latest update released by USGS geologists, the Puna lava flow has slowed from 890 ft/day to 625/day and is now projected to reach Apa'a Street in 13 days (approximately Thursday, October 2), Pahoa Village Road within 18 days (approximately Tuesday, October 7) and Highway 130 in 21 days (approximately Friday, October 10).
The June 27 lava flow from Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent crossed the vacant, forested northwest corner of Kaohe Homesteads Friday morning and entered open grasslands. Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says the flow does not pose an immediate threat to area communities and residents will be given adequate notice to safely evacuate, should that be necessary.
Crews are continuing to clear Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road to establish alternate road access in the event Highway 130 is affected by the lava flow. Officials want to remind people that the flow cannot be accessed and is not visible from any public areas. Access to the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision remains restricted and limited to residents and property owners only.
Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials urge anyone who lives or works downslope of the Puna lava flow to begin preparing their emergency evacuation and response plans now to ensure they can act quickly.