Arson suspected in South Kohala fires


By JOHN BURNETT

Tribune-Herald staff writer

South Kohala firefighters and police responded to four small brush fires within a two-hour period late Monday night and earty Tuesday morning.

Police Capt. Aimee Wana said Wednesday that arson is suspected “due to the short time between the occurrences and the seeming pattern of it occurring.” She said police have “no suspects at this point.”

“No persons were seen setting the fires, but there were accelerants found in at least two of those locations,” Wana said.

The fires were reported between 11:03 p.m. Monday and 12:59 p.m. on Tuesday. Two were off Waikoloa Road between Mamalahoa Highway and Waikoloa village, one was off Akoni Pule Highway near Spencer Beach Park and one was on Ouli Street in Kawaihae.

West Hawaii Fire Battalion Chief Reuben Chun said four fire companies responded to the blazes. He added that firefighters happened upon one of the Waikoloa Road fires.

“On our way up, one of the firefighters in the engine riding in the jump seat … saw another small fire as we were responding to the first one,” he said.

The fire near Spencer Beach Park was already extinguished before firefighters arrived.

“According to radio traffic, there was a water truck that happened upon it, and they put it out prior to us getting there,” Chun said.

Chun said that help from the water truck, calm wind conditions and sporadic rain showers in the past few days helped fire crews to quickly contain and extinguish the fires in the usually bone-dry areas.

“We just deal with it as best as we can — first come, first served kind of thing,” he said. “But if we’re tied up with a fire that’s considered stable, that’s not going anywhere, we can just leave a firefighter there to secure the scene while police conduct their investigation and we can free up units to respond to other emergencies.”

Chun said that this is the second suspected set of maliciously set fires in July.

“Earlier this month, there were a couple of small fires that were set, I believe, down by the Puako junction area, both of them within an hour of each other. Both were small, similar to what we experienced the other night,” he said.

No property damage and no injuries were reported due to the fires, Chun said. He urged the public to “try to be more responsible and not deliberately spark” fires in the drought-stricken area.

“I would caution people about trying to use any type of ignition sources anywhere,” he said.

Wana asked that witnesses or anyone with information on the fires call the police non-emergency line at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

“Hopefully, we can get more information. If anybody has seen anything or knows anything, by all means, please give us a call,” she said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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