Volunteers in Waimea brought food and water to first responders Monday as they battled the 40,000-acre fire burning near the Department of Hawaiian Homelands Puukapu Subdivision.
Big Island Giving Tree, a network of volunteer community members, have staged themselves at Waimea District Park where they are coordinating with crews and sending out three hot meals a day for all emergency responders.
Melissa Samura spent part of her afternoon driving lunches from the park to firefighters working near Puukapu.
“I really believe that the last thing these firefighters are thinking about is eating,” Samura said. “When the community wants to help them, the first thing we think about is feeding them, because we can help in this way.”
Big Island Giving Tree has been receiving continuous donations from individuals countywide as well as businesses, including Ippys Hawaiian BBQ and The Fish and The Hog in Waimea, Umekes Fish Market and Costco in Kailua-Kona, and Safeway in Hilo.
While driving through Puukapu, Samura was quick to get out of the car and offer food and water to the first responders she found in the subdivision.
“It takes a special person to be in this occupation, and it’s beyond just a job,” Samura said. “We have no plans to stop helping until they’re done and gone.”
While speaking with county workers who were monitoring the subdivision, Samura was happy to see community members Ka‘u Malakaua-Blanco, Laif Showalter and Mikela Parris as they were also taking provisions to first responders near the fire.
Over the weekend, Malakaua-Blanco and her family’s home was only feet away from being engulfed in flames in Puukapu.
“Everyone is doing okay as far as I know, but we’re all on standby,” Malakaua-Blanco said. “I wanted to use the energy I have to do anything I possibly could to help. We’re a community here, but we’re also family.”
While the threat of fire to the residential area of Puukapu has decreased, there are continual flare-ups as the winds remain strong.
On the other side of the fire, Linda Hunt and Deanna Avelino began moving horses back to the Waikoloa Stables after evacuating them on Sunday.
“We evacuated to the stables on Saturday from Waikii, and with the fire jumping the road on Sunday, we had to move from here to Waimea,” Hunt said. “Waikii probably had at least 150 horses, and they evacuated 50 or more, but there is only so much room and time to evacuate.”
Many animal trailers were parked on the side of the road Saturday and Sunday night since there were not many places for livestock to go in such short notice, according to Avelino.
“I think many people slept in their cars because there just wasn’t a lot prepared,” Avelino said. “Luckily, the county called the evacuation early, so everyone had to time to get out safely.”
As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, Waikoloa Road from the village to Highway 190, also known as Mamalahoa Highway, had been reopened. Highway 190 also was reopened from the Waimea Airport to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway intersection. Old Saddle Road remained closed, but Waikii residents will be allowed to access their property.
Evacuation shelters at the Old Kona Airport in Kailua-Kona and Waimea District Park remained open Monday. American Red Cross, county officials and volunteers are at the two locations to assist anyone in need.