Mass fire evacuations on Hawaii's Maui

Thousands of people have been evacuated during a brush fire in Central Maui, Hawaii.
Thousands of people have been evacuated during a brush fire in Central Maui, Hawaii.

Thousands of residents and visitors on Hawaii's Maui Island have been ordered to evacuate two communities as a spreading wildfire sent smoke billowing high into the sky, officials and local media said.

The 1200 hectare brush fire in Maui's central valley was uncontrolled on Thursday night.

A National Weather Service satellite photo showing smoke hanging over the island was posted on local media and social media sites.

The brush fire jumped a highway and spread across fallow fields and more brush. Two helicopters from the fire department also dropped water on the blaze to try to contain it.

While thousands were ordered evacuated, it was unclear how many people fled the west Maui coastal communities of Maalaea and Kihei.

But three shelters housed about 500 people late on Thursday, media reports said.

Kahului Airport was briefly closed and flights were diverted because of the smoke, which also forced the closure of two major roads.

No injuries or damage to structures were reported, but some farm equipment burned, HawaiiNewsNow reported.

Neither Maui County officials nor a representative with the county's Emergency Operations Center were available for comment early on Friday.

Australian Associated Press