Firefighters contain Hawaii brushfires sparked by lava flow

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2015 4:36 PM

(Reuters) - Firefighters in Hawaii backed by water-dropping helicopters and earth-moving equipment contained two brushfires ignited by molten lava that continues to threaten a Big Island village, officials said on Friday.

Firefighters toiled late into the evening on Thursday to contain the blazes, which burned about 350 acres of brush about a mile from two subdivisions in the Pahoa Village vicinity, Hawaii County Fire Department said in a statement.

"The fires that occurred yesterday are contained with the fire break perimeters, and additional work is being done to improve fire break conditions," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in statement.

There was no fire threat to residents and properties on Friday morning, it said.

The leading edge of lava from the Kilauea Volcano's June 27 eruption has not moved forward in recent days and is stalled about a half mile upslope of the main intersection of Pahoa Village's two roads.

However, so-called lava "breakouts" - offshoots of molten rock that are slipping down from higher elevations on either side of the main flow - are responsible for the fires and are being closely monitored, said Hawaii County Fire Department spokesman Darryl Oliveira.

One offshoot of molten rock that advanced roughly 50 yards to an area near the front of the main flow, widening as it moved along its north side, crossed over a pre-dug fire containment line on Thursday and ignited one of the brush fires.

The second fire was ignited by two other breakouts farther afield along the north margin, the agency said. Another breakout to the south remain stalled.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)