Blaze destroys kiosk at end of Kealia boardwalk

An early-morning fire Thursday destroyed a kiosk at the Maalaea end of the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, closing the kiosk until repairs can be made, officials said.

“The fire destroyed everything: wood, plastic deck and railing, and even the colorful interpretive panels,” said Glynnis Nakai, refuge manager for the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. “Although the cause of the fire is unknown, it seems suspicious because the surrounding vegetation was not affected and there wasn’t anything on the boardwalk that would cause a fire to start on its own.”

Kihei and Kahului fire crews responded to the 2:26 a.m. fire alarm at the boardwalk in the Maalaea mudflats area, arriving nine minutes later to find an open pavilion on the western side of the property engulfed in flames, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga.

The 20-by-20-foot open wood structure was built with timber and recycled plastic planks, he said.

The fire was brought under control by 3 a.m. and extinguished at 3:30 a.m.

The cause of the fire remained undetermined. Damage was estimated at $20,000. No injuries were reported.

Nakai said access to the burned kiosk had been blocked off for safety reasons, but the rest of the boardwalk – including two other kiosks – is still open to the public.

“The damage impacts the full experience of walking 2,185 feet and coming to the last kiosk where the trade winds blow on your back as you look out over the bay and watch whales, or view birds in the mudflats,” Nakai said.

The entire wood roof will need to be dismantled and removed with the rest of the charred material, she said. Because of the condition and instability, the kiosk will be off-limits to the public until repairs can be made. Nakai said it wasn’t known when the repairs would be completed.

People can still walk on the boardwalk and visit the refuge’s new visitor center at Milepost 6 on Mokulele Highway, she said.