Arson unlikely in Suisan fire, but investigation continues


A Hawaii County Fire Department official said Monday arson essentially was ruled out as the cause of a recent fire at Suisan that destroyed the 106-year-old food distributor’s business and office building last week.

The blaze, which lasted from 10:32 p.m. Thursday to 3:30 a.m. Friday, destroyed the 16,000-square-foot building located at 1965 Kamehameha Ave.

Fire Department assistant fire chief Gantry Andrade said Monday that Kaimi, a fire-accelerant-sniffing dog, did not detect any accelerants during an inspection of the damage.

“That kind of rules out foul play,” he said.

Andrade also said there were no signs of malicious intent, and county officials, along with a private investigator Suisan Company Ltd. hired, are still searching for the root of the fire.

“We’re still looking for the origin and cause,” Andrade said. “Have to remove a lot of debris and a lot of metal. The roof needs to be removed so they can get in there.”

Employees with Keaau-based construction company Earth Karvers Hawaii were removing large amounts of metal debris from the building Monday.

Suisan representatives are saying the fire is not affecting the company’s sales and distribution department, and calls are being routed to the Kona office. According to a press release, less than a third of the impacted building, about 5,000 square feet, housed overflow storage, dry and frozen.

While Suisan representatives are saying it’s “business as usual,” the company is dealing with cleanup and environmental concerns, as well as getting a new office outfitted.

Suisan moved 40 employees to a temporary office space Monday in suite 202 of the Hilo Ben Franklin Building located at 333 Kilauea Ave. Few employees were present at the temporary office Monday morning, where Suisan signs were posted throughout the empty space.

Suisan president Glenn Hashimoto was not available for comment by press time Tuesday. Currently, all questions are being handled through a public relations firm. He was quoted in a press release saying, “our Suisan team has rolled forward so well to make sure our customers get the service they have come to expect from us.”

Some questions are still left unanswered, including whether or not any staff members were working at the warehouse when the fire broke out, and the estimated cost of the damage.

Suisan currently employs 175 people on the Big Island and serves local hotels, supermarkets, schools and restaurants, as well as its other global customers.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com

 

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