State forestry crews were expected last night to have contained a fire that has burned more than 1,800 acres of koa and 'ohi'a forest on the southeast flank of Mauna Loa.
Officials at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said heavy smoke from the fire led some people to believe the volcano was erupting.
About three dozen state firefighters and two helicopters have been battling the blaze in the remote Kapapala Forest Reserve at the 5,000-foot level near the boundary of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The fire was reported Sunday afternoon, but it is not clear when or how it started, said Jon Giffen, Hawai'i manager for the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Because it is in such an isolated region, a lightning strike or other natural cause is suspected, he said.
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