Volcanoes Officials Prepare for Potential Forest Fires

(KHNL) - Crews at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have set up a portable water pick-up station for helicopters, just in case a forest fire should flare-up.

This, as the latest finger of lava, creeps out of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, and continues to inch its way down-slope.

From the air, it looks like a brewing cauldron, heaving columns of sulfur dioxide skyward.

And like a witches' brew, the toxic gas and molten lava are a concern.

''We're going to get the frog ponds out, which have a 6-thousand gallon capacity at Mauna Ulu vent and that will allow us to quench any fire that breaks out," Says Jim Gail of the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

By now, the lava has spread at least over 7 acres.

The intense, rock-melting heat, is giving the landscape an "Extreme Makeover" of its own.

''It's just a breakout of Pele," says Gail. "It's in a new location. Watching something that's so familiar, change so dramatically, so quickly, that's one of the things you see, the collapse of Pu'u O'o."

And as Pele lays down new land, she also takes away.

Rare, native plants are being destroyed.

''The forest was just a beautiful rain forest, where you had just a beautiful rain forest, it's just steaming, it's being blanched," Gail laments. "The sulfuric acid has just killed off those plants."}

As a safety issue, a four mile stretch of the nearby Crater Rim Drive is still closed to the public.