Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Large wildfire burning amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

A huge blaze, one of many in the US and Europe this summer, is fuelled by dry conditions near an army training facility in a rural area.

August 12, 2022
By Caleb Jones
12 August 2022

A large wildfire in a rural area of Hawaii’s Big Island is not threatening any homes, but high winds and extremely dry conditions are making it difficult for crews to contain the blaze.

It is latest of a series of summer wildfires in the United States and across Europe.

The fire started in the western reaches of the US Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area, which is above the town of Waikoloa and in between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes.

The fire had burned more than 39 square kilometres as of Thursday.

Huge wildfires like the one in Hawaii highlight the dangers of climate change-related heat and drought for many communities throughout the US West and other hotspots around the world.

But experts say relatively small fires on typically wet, tropical islands in the Pacific are also on the rise, creating a cycle of ecological damage that affects vital and limited resources for millions of residents.

Video released on Thursday by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

State land officials said the fire actually began several weeks ago and smouldered until strong winds fanned the flames this week.

The area is dominated by shrubs and grasslands that have been dried by persistent drought.

“This fire is very significant and it is taking this entire team of first responders to collectively contain its advances,” said Lt Colonel Kevin Cronin, commander of the US Army Garrison Pohakuloa Training Area, in a statement.

Strong winds have been recorded across the area, some in excess of 48kph.

“The weather conditions are making this fight difficult to slow the advance of the fire, and our combined efforts are working to prevent it from reaching or crossing Highway 190,” Cronin said.

The fire is now burning on state land and is about 1.6km away from Highway 190, according to Big Island county officials.

The Big Island fire is not threatening homes. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP)

The town of Waikoloa, which is on the other side of Highway 190, was evacuated last year when the state’s largest-ever wildfire burned more than 180 square kilometres.

Federal, state and local firefighters are trying to contain the blaze. Crews are using bulldozers to create a fire break and several helicopters from various agencies are dropping water on the fire.

A spokesperson for the Army said that while there is active military training in the area, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“There are units up there training, I can’t confirm or deny if live fire was taking place,” said Michael O. Donnelly, chief of external communications for the US Army Garrison Hawaii. “It’s business as usual, but the exact cause we don’t know.”

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for fire conditions in the region until Thursday night.

More in Top Stories