Evacuation order for Waikoloa Village lifted, but residents urged to remain prepared
WAIMEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - An out-of-control wildfire on Hawaii Island has now burned more than 40,000 acres in the Waimea area and destroyed at least two homes, county officials said Sunday.
Just after noon, Hawaii County authorities issued an evacuation order for residents in Waikoloa Village.
“The winds nuts, it’s 40 mile an hour winds creating its own weather,” said Michael O’Loughlin of Waikoloa Village.
“We got a text message that we should evacuate and the fire looked much worse and the smoke looks much more threatening,” said Tanguy Lim-Seiwart who was visiting from Chicago.
Cars were bumper to bumper on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway.
“There was more traffic than I’ve ever seen on the road at that time going in both directions,” said Deena who was visiting from California.
People sought shelter at the Old Kona Airport where social distancing and mask wearing is enforced.
“At the moment, we’re doing the calculation to work out what the maximum capacity would be based on the size of the building,” said Laury Scott, Red Cross shelter manager at the Old Kona Airport.
However, some residents didn’t feel comfortable staying at the evacuation shelter and resorted to staying in their vehicles.
Hotel rates were just far too high.
“The minimum rate I could find was $1250 a night,” said O’Loughlin. “The Hilton, the Marriott, Mauna Lani, the Fairmont and even Four Seasons.”
As of noon Sunday, fire officials said 140 personnel were battling the flames, along with six helicopters, and 14 dozers. The National Guard has also been called for assistance.
The area burned by the wind-whipped blaze more than doubled overnight.
“It was scary,” said Waimea resident Kanani Malakaua.
“I just seen the flames coming. I mainly got my important papers, made sure my kids were in the car, got my animals but this is a very, very scary time for us.”
Joshua Kihe of Waimea said did everything he could to protect his home.
“I had a dozer on my lawn, my land and I tried to make a fire break,” said Kihe. “Just try to just stay ready.”
But as the wind picked up, Kihe said the fire got out of control and destroyed his home.
“But I definitely need to think of a plan because it’s a life changer,” said Kihe.
Residents of the Puu Kapu Hawaiian Homestead and Waikii Ranch were also evacuated because of the blaze. Those evacuation orders were also lifted Sunday night.
“We want people to take it seriously. The air quality over there is terrible,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth, in an interview with Hawaii News Now on Saturday night.
“I was actually on the Kona side ... and just breathing through that area was kind of difficult.”
He added, “We have a lot of people out there that are working and really putting their lives on the line.”
Old Saddle Road and Highway 190 between Lalamilo Farm and Waikoloa Roads are closed.
Hawaii County Fire Department said the blaze started on Friday morning near Parker Ranch.
On Saturday, strong and shifting winds fanned the flames, which were being fought on land and by air. Those blustery winds continued into Sunday as firefighters scrambled to stop the wildfire’s march. Most of the Big Island is under a wind advisory, with localized gusts to 50 mph possible.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.
Although mandatory evacuations have been lifted, residents are asked to remain on high alert throughout the evening and only return if its absolutely necessary.
This story will be updated.
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