Lightning strike suspected cause of Highway 190 brush fire

  • TIFFANY DEMASTERS/West Hawaii Today

    Heavy equipment operator Scott Embernate for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife attaches a hose to a 2,000-gallon tanker truck Monday afternoon along Highway 190 as part of the efforts of state and county fire crews to extinguish a brush fire that began Saturday north of Kailua-Kona.

  • TIFFANY DEMASTERS/West Hawaii Today A weekend brush fire scorched 1,000 acres of state land and closed a portion of Highway 190 for more than 24 hours.

KAILUA-KONA — A lightning strike is thought to be the cause of a brush fire that scorched about 1,000 acres of state land along Highway 190, fire officials confirmed Monday.

Since Saturday, state and county fire crews had battled the blaze that forced the closure of Highway 190 between Daniel K. Inouye Highway in South Kohala and Makalei in North Kona for more than 24 hours.

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The fire was 90 percent contained Monday and crews expected to reach full containment by the end of the day, according Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Mop-up operations will continue throughout the week.

Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Ian Smith said shutting down the highway was necessary because smoke was causing visibility problems and crews needed room to safely move their vehicles.

The closure continued until a shift in winds Sunday evening allowed fire crews to safely reopen the highway at about 10 p.m.

Because the fire seemed to have started in the middle of nowhere, fire officials at the scene Monday said they suspect its ignition source was a lightning strike.

Ward said there were no injuries reported in connection with the fire and no animals that might have been grazing on the state land died.

Also, no structures were destroyed.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 32 firefighters from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and three from Hawaii Fire Department.

Water tankers, brush trucks, bulldozers and helicopters were used to suppress the fire.

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While there have been a number of small brush fires since the first of the year, Smith said, this is the largest blaze firefighters have had to battle.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

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