HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hawaii’s governor on Friday declared an emergency on the island of Maui, where firefighters were battling a blaze that has forced the evacuations of thousands of people and sent huge clouds of smoke billowing over nearby beaches.
The fire on Maui, sometimes called the Valley Isle, has scorched more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of former sugar cane fields and brush since erupting on Thursday, and by Friday was 20 percent contained, island officials said in a statement.
The blaze began in the island’s central valley, and steady winds of up to 20 miles per hour (30 kmh) stoked the flames, officials said. The fire prompted thousands of residents and visitors in the communities of Maalaea and Kihei to flee as a precaution.
“I am declaring our Valley Isle a disaster area for the purpose of implementing the emergency management functions as allowed by law,” Hawaii Governor David Ige said in a statement.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser said there were no reports of injuries or damage to buildings. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Oprah Winfrey, who owns a property on Maui, opened a private road on Thursday to assist Maui County officials in dealing with the fire. Ige thanked the television personality on Twitter.
Firefighters have used helicopters to drop water in an attempt to quell the blaze.
Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Catherine Evans and Jacqueline Wong