Fire burns 250 acres in Maui reserve
WAILUKU » A fire at the 5,000-acre Polipoli Forest Reserve in Upcountry Maui has expanded to 250 acres and created enough smoke to force the closure of the Haleakala National Park visitor center.
But firefighters are making progress, and the blaze is 60 percent contained, county spokeswoman Mahina Martin said.
The park visitor center was expected to be reopened today, but park officials were warning visitors with respiratory problems about the effects of the potential smoke. The recreational area of Polipoli State Park and its access road remain closed.
No residences were threatened by the fire, Martin said.
She said firefighters were expected to fight the blaze through the weekend. More than 30 state, federal and county firefighters along with three helicopters and four bulldozers have been involved.
Martin said helicopter assistance was hampered yesterday by cloud cover creating unsafe flying conditions.
The fire was located between the 6,500- and 7,000-foot level of Haleakala in dense forest with no roads.
"Effectively fighting a fire and keeping our crews safe on this type of terrain in a remote forest reserve with limited water sources require a combined team effort among all of us," said John Cummings, a state forestry official.
Officials said that for safety reasons, firefighters will not work at night.
The fire was first seen Tuesday afternoon above the state park at Polipoli and had burned 25 acres by Wednesday. If it spreads too far, the fire could destroy endangered plant species, state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said.
Duvall said the plants include the fern Diellia erecta and the Sanicula sandwicensis, a member of the parsley family. He said four Sanicula sandwicensis were found in the forest reserve on Jan. 2 and that only 12 others exist in Haleakala Crater.
Fire officials did not know what caused the fire.