Tour van ignites during trip up Mauna Kea Access Road
MAUNA KEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nine people escaped a tour van fire at a high elevation on Mauna Kea on Tuesday.
University of Hawaii Mauna Kea Rangers responded to a van halfway up the access road near the 13,800-foot summit point.
“When we arrived on scene, explosions were coming from the vehicle, and our priority was to keep everyone away from harm and make sure that emergency response was called,” Maunakea Ranger Oscar Pouoa said.
Officials said the driver quickly evacuated the passengers after smelling smoke. Photos showed flames coming out from the front end of the vehicle. The fire later spread and engulfed the entire van, destroying it.
Rangers were the first on scene within about five minutes. A federal fire crew from the Pohakuloa Training Area about 12 miles arrived on scene about 30 minutes later to put out the flames.
“This is an important reminder that the mauna can be as dangerous as it is awe inspiring,” UH Hilo’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship Executive Director Greg Chun said. “It’s isolated, we can experience extreme temperatures and conditions, and fire burns faster on the summit. That’s why our rangers are a key part of the Center of Maunakea Stewardship, where we also work hard to build relationships with multiple agencies to ensure coordination when responding to emergencies like this one.”
No one was injured in the incident and the passengers were brought to the Halepohaku mid-level facility.
Officials urge those heading up the mountain to be prepared for emergencies as cell service is unreliable and there is only one public emergency phone on the summit.
Chun added that emergency services may be two hours away from the summit area, cell phone coverage is unreliable, and there is only one public emergency phone on the summit.
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