Wildland fire on Kauai's Na Pali Coast highlights drought conditions statewide

Wildland fire closes portion of Kauai's Na Pali Coast
Published: Sep. 26, 2017 at 7:12 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2017 at 11:09 AM HST
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(Courtesy: Richard Berry)
(Courtesy: Richard Berry)

HANALEI, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Large portions of Kauai's north shore remained closed Wednesday while firefighters battled a wildland blaze burning near Ha'ena State Park.

The fire was reported early Tuesday morning, according to state wildlife officials. Flames were spotted burning on a ridge between Ha'ena State Park and Limahuli Valley. The state closed the park and the popular Kalalau Trail.

A visitor who recently had to evacuate her home in Oregon due to a big wildfire there was turned away at the trailhead.

"We were really excited to not breathe forest fire, and we were heading out toward the trail and I smelled forest fire, and I figured that couldn't be. Must be someone burning in their backyard. We came up to the trailhead and we got turned around by a police officer," said visitor Annika Mongan.

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the fire was mainly on a steep ridge and was not advancing much. Authorities said the flames were still a few ridges away from the Kalalau Trail and were not threatening cross the trail at the time. Two DLNR staff members were on the trail to warn hikers to stay put.

Wildfire experts said despite drought conditions for most of the state, this summer has been relative quiet for fires until recently.

"About 90% of the state has been in drought conditions since July so we've sort of been watching the weather and known that it's been primed for fires to start. but it's just been the past week that we've seen the activity kind of spike," said Clay Trauernicht, a wildfire specialist with the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension.

Maui and the Big Island have also had their share of decent-sized brush fires this week.

A couple of helicopters made water drops while crews on the ground fought the flames.

"Even though Kauai, on the north side, hasn't been declared under a drought condition, obviously it was dry enough for a fire to start up. What's really driving that is not so much the trees drying out but it's sort of the underbrush below," said Trauernicht.

The cause of the fire, as well as any information regarding containment, was not immediately available.

For more information on drought conditions and fire safety tips, click here.

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