The fire had burned more than 25 square miles (66 square kilometres) as of Friday, officials said.
No homes were at risk, but the flames came within miles of a critical highway Friday. The area where the fire is burning is dominated by shrubs and grasslands that are parched from persistent drought in the region.
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"The last two days the fire was mostly burning in invasive fountain grass," said Steve Bergfeld, the Hawaii Island branch manager for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife. "Unfortunately, the fire has moved into some dryland forest which has native ōhiʻa lehua (trees), and we are trying to keep flames away from this sensitive area.”
Gusty winds were making it challenging to contain the blaze that started in the western reaches of the US Army's Pohakuloa Training Area, which is above Waikoloa Village, a town of about 7,000 people.
High winds and extremely dry conditions make it difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze. AP
The fire had burned more than 25 square miles (66 square kilometres) as of Friday, officials said. Earlier in the day the state had estimated the fire had burned more than 39 square miles (101 square kilometres), but reduced that number after formal aerial mapping Friday afternoon. They estimated the fire had burned about 15 square miles as of Thursday.
Crews were using seven bulldozers to build fire lines around the blaze and five military helicopters were dropping thousands of gallons of water on the hottest part of the fire Friday, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Flames were largely contained to the military training area land in a region bounded by Saddle Road, Highway 190 and an 1859 lava flow.
Fire managers are hoping the field of hardened lava rock will act as a natural fire break if it reaches that point, the department said.
This photo shows a large wildfire in a rural area of Hawaii's Big Island. AP
Last year the same region of the Big Island saw the state's largest-ever wildfire, a blaze that destroyed several homes and threatened thousands more. It burned more than 70 square miles (181 square kilometres) on the slopes of Mauna Kea, the state's tallest mountain.
Like many islands in the Pacific, Hawaii’s dry seasons are getting more extreme with climate change. Large wildfires highlight the dangers of climate-related heat and drought for many communities throughout the US and other hotspots around the world. But experts say fires on typically wet, tropical islands in the Pacific are also on the rise.
State land officials said the fire actually began several weeks ago and smoldered until strong winds this week reinvigorated the flames. Strong winds have been recorded across the area, some in excess of 30 mph (48 kph).
A spokesperson for the Army told the media 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.”
Crews who struggled just days ago against deadly wildfires raging unchecked across California, Oregon and Washington have now taken the offensive, making substantial progress in subduing the blazes, officials in all three states said on Thursday.
Entire communities have been razed by wildfires raging in the western United States, with officials warning of potential mass deaths under apocalyptic orange skies.
The fire in Maui, sometimes called the Valley Isle, had been 60 percent contained by sunset but officials warned that even though the shelters were shut, they might need to reopen if more evacuations were ordered.
Joe Biden branded President Donald Trump a “climate arsonist” on Monday for refusing to acknowledge global warming’s role in deadly wildfires sweeping the western United States, while Trump blamed lax forestry and declared, “I don’t think science knows.”
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