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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 13, 2003

Volcano road may reopen today

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HAWAI'I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawai'i — The Chain of Craters Road remained closed yesterday as crews sized up the continuing wildfire and moved toilets and ranger huts to avoid an oncoming stream of lava.

Lava has flowed to within sight of the visitor station at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, prompting park officials to move two buildings, restrooms and signs.

Park Ranger Mardie Lane said Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park officials plan to reopen the road to the Mauna Ulu parking lot today. But she said the rest of the road will remain closed because of continuing fires and methane explosions as the lava moves through vegetation.

Parks officials also need to work out logistics, such as parking in the new area to be set up for visitors, she said.

A new visitors station is planned about a half-mile back from the flow at a landmark known as the Holei Sea Arch.

Lane said because the new location is close to a 30-foot sea cliff, parents will have to keep even closer track of their children, and people planning to hike to the lava for night viewing will definitely need a flashlight.

Brush fires ignited by the lava and fanned by high winds prompted parks officials to close the road Monday, but Lane said things have improved somewhat.

"We're not in the situation we were in on Monday. Things look more in our favor for being able to continue fire suppression efforts with the water drops" by helicopter, she said.

Federal firefighters have been trying to contain fires ignited by the lava to protect native flora and fauna, but the latest brush fire has spread across 1,980 acres.