The brush fire was reported about 10:30 a.m., local time, and steady winds of up to 20 miles per hour fanned the flames, officials said. At about 2:15 p.m., thick smoke was blowing across Maui Veterans Highway and vehicles were turning around at the Humane Society.
"We are asking everyone to conserve energy, conserve water, and do what you can to be prepared", Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said.
Hawaii emergency officials have ordered thousands of residents in parts of central Maui to evacuate as firefighters battle a blaze that has ripped through parched land, scorching some 3,000 acres.
Assistant Fire Chief Val Martin said in a press release from the County of Maui: "All of these issues combined means the fire will likely intensify and accelerate, which may cause future evacuations and road closures".
The cloud of smoke from the blaze was so huge that it could be seen from outer space, video from the National Weather Service in Honolulu shows. At least two helicopters were conducting water drops. The fire prompted thousands of residents and visitors in the communities of Maalaea and Kihei to flee as a precaution.
Oprah Winfrey, who has a home in the county, also gave officials access to her private road to help with efforts fighting the fire.More news: Hayabusa2 makes second touchdown on Ryugu asteroid and sends pictures
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Neither Maui County officials nor a representative with the county's Emergency Operations Center were available for comment early on Friday.
Kahului Airport was closed briefly on Thursday but has since reopened and the county provided bus transportation for a number of people to get to the airport this morning.
But three shelters housed about 500 people late Thursday, media reports said.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige tweeted: 'A big mahalo to Oprah for giving Maui County access to your private road for use to assist in the Maui fire'. MAILE CREWDSON photo A major brush fire Thursday shut down Kuihelani Highway from Honoapiilani HIghway to Maui Lani Parkway. But operations were back to normal around 7 p.m. local time, media reported.
No injuries or damage to structures were reported, but some farm equipment burned, HawaiiNewsNow reported.