DOCARE beefs up security at closed areas near Mauna Loa to deter visitors from sneaking in

Trio warned to leave closed area (Dec. 4, 2022)
Trio warned to leave closed area (Dec. 4, 2022)(DLNR)
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 4:15 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2022 at 4:25 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Law enforcement officials are stepping up patrols as the public viewing area, associated with the eruption of Mauna Loa, is set to close at midnight Friday.

State officials said with the closure come concerns that people may decide to sneak into closed areas.

This comes after several people have been cited for entering closed areas the past week.

On Dec. 7, three men from Kazakhstan were caught in the closed area of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve and cited for entering the area. Authorities said they face petty misdemeanor charges in Hilo District Court on Jan. 20.

If convicted, they could be jailed for 30-days and face fines up to $500 each.

On Dec. 4, during a tour for media representatives, a DOCARE officer contacted three people walking up Mauna Loa Access Road. They were warned and ordered to leave the area.

According to Hawaii EMA on Twitter, there was “at least one credible report of damage” to an old rock wall, as well as other reports about people removing stones.

“There are hidden dangers such as lava cooling, jagged and sharp rocks, and uneven surfaces, as well as potential unexploded ordnance that make trekking through the area extremely dangerous,” Chief Jason Redulla of the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) said.

“Getting cited pales in comparison to getting hurt and having to be rescued from rugged backcountry areas.”

DOCARE officers will be monitoring closed areas frequently and will cite or arrest anyone violating the closure.