Update #2 - March 20, 2011
Fire Overview: Napau Fire Start Date – March 5, 2011. The Napau Fire is approximately seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center, located on the east rift of Kilauea Volcano/ (Lat/Lon: 19⁰ 22'29" x 155⁰ 7' 25"; el. 2450). It is a lava caused wildfire resulting from the March 5, 2011, Kamoamoa Fissure Eruption. Lava flows have resulted in a vegetation fire. The fire area has received rain in the last 48 hours, which slowed the fire's growth. Pockets of high heat remain on the front and flanks of the fire. Weather conditions precluded firefighters' ability to complete accurate mapping. Approximately 1833 acres have burned, and there is no estimated containment date.
Strategy: If weather permits, firefighters will begin developing safety zones in cool areas within the fire perimeter. Planning strategy continues to focus on scouting, monitoring (i.e. fuel samples) and exploring all suppression options. The fire will continue to burn under the influence of radiant heat generated by the lava flow. Sulfur dioxide gas from volcanic vents increases the vegetation mortality which has been already stressed from the drought of 2010.
Values to be protected: A high priority fire protection goal is the east rift Special Ecological Area (SEA), which has been intensively managed to exclude invasive species and protect and restore highly valued native plant and animal communities. Protected over decades by Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, the rain and mesic forests threatened by the spread of the Napau Fire are home to plants, birds, bugs, spiders, and bats found only in Hawai'i. They include the endangered Hawaiian bat (`ope`ape`a), Hawaiian hawk(`io), and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as Hawaiian thrush (`oma`o), lama and sandalwood trees, happyface spiders, carnivorous caterpillars, and Hawaiian honeycreepers (`apapane and `amakihi). National park and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) infrastructures, monitoring equipment, and other visitor features near the fire are also being protected.
Fire Resources: Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park firefighters are being augmented with fire crews from Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and the USDA Forest Service; seventeen firefighters are committed. Other fire resources and specialists are arriving from the mainland today and Monday.
Air and Smoke: Smoke production has diminished due to rainy conditions. In addition to smoke, air quality is constantly monitored in regards to sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanic activity. Fire managers will continue to coordinate fire efforts with HVO scientists regarding eruption activity and air quality. The weather service is predicting a return to gusty easterly trade winds, less rain and lower relative humidity over the fire area on Monday, March 21, 2011.
Closures: The Chain of Craters Road has been re-opened, March 20, 2011. However, a change in fire activity could cause temporary closures.
Partners Involved: US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and USDA Forest Service.