Lightning strike suspected cause of Highway 190 brush fire

  • Heavy Equipment Operator Scott Embernate for DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife attaches a hose to a valve on a 2,000-gallon tanker along Highway 190 Monday afternoon. State and county fire crews extinguished a weekend brush fire that scorched 1,000 acres of state land and closed a portion of Highway 190 for more than 24 hours. Full containment was expected by Monday afternoon. (Tiffany DeMasters/West Hawaii Today)
  • State and county fire crews extinguish a weekend brush fire that scorched 1,000 acres of state land and closed a portion of Highway 190 for more than 24 hours. Full containment was expected by Monday afternoon. (Tiffany DeMasters/West Hawaii Today)
  • State and county fire crews extinguish a weekend brush fire that scorched 1,000 acres of state land and closed a portion of Highway 190 for more than 24 hours. Full containment was expected by Monday afternoon. (Tiffany DeMasters/West Hawaii Today)

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

State and county fire crews have been battling since Saturday the blaze that forced the closure of Highway 190, also known as Mamalahoa Highway, 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 have full containment by the end of the day, according Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the 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 road remained closed until a shift in winds Sunday evening allowed for fire crews to safely reopen the highway around 10 p.m.

Because the fire seemed to have ignited in the middle of nowhere, fire officials on scene Monday said they suspected the ignition source to be a lightning strike.

Ward said there were no injuries reported in connection to the fire and that no animals that may have been grazing on the state land died. Also, no structures were destroyed.

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

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

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.