Update #5 - March 23, 2011
Fire Overview: Napau Fire Start Date – March 5, 2011, (Lat/Lon: 19⁰ 22'29" x 155⁰ 7' 25"; el. 2450). The fire remained active today due to strong gusty trade winds. Moderate to low rates of fire spread were observed by firefighters. Flames were visible along the south flank and Chain of Craters Road and the road remains closed to visitors. Helicopter bucket drops were utilized to cool hotspots and slow the fire's forward progress. All incoming fire crews were able to engage on each flank of the fire with success. Approximately 2,010 acres have burned with no containment. The Napau Fire is approximately seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center, located on the east rift of Kilauea Volcano. It is a lava caused wildfire resulting from the March 5, 2011, Kamoamoa Fissure Eruption.
Strategy: To sum up Robin Wills, the Napau Fire Incident Commander, "today was the first day we were able to work successfully with the planning strategy, and with all the firefighting parts and pieces. I am pleased with the work accomplished today." "There remains a lot of work to do, and weather will play a large part in our success" says Joe Molhoek, the park Fire Management Officer. Firefighter and visitor safety is always the number one objective. Rough terrain, obscure holes, standing dead trees and other hazards exist.
Values to be protected: All fires pose significant threats to the ecological health of the park, which are not fire adaptive, and will be put out. A high priority fire protection goal is the east rift Special Ecological Area (SEA), an intact lowland rain forest, which has been intensively managed to exclude invasive species and protect and restore highly valued native plant and animal communities. The north flank has the greatest potential threat to the SEA. 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 NPS fire crews from Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Olympic and Yosemite National Parks (NPS), the Pacific West Regional Office of NPS, National NPS Fire Office in Boise and the USDA Forest Service (Eldorado, Sequoia, Stanislaus and Los Padres National Forests in CA.); 43 firefighters and management staff are committed.
Air and Smoke: Strong trade winds continued to blow today with periodic rain showers. Smoke is visible along the Chain of Craters Road. 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 USGS HVO scientists regarding eruption activity and air quality.
Closures: The Chain of Craters Road is closed approximately 6 miles from the visitor center at Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu due to smoke over the road and visibility issue for drivers.
Partners Involved: US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and USDA Forest Service.