Officials seek public’s help in string of fires

An unscheduled sugar cane fire that burned about a half acre off North Kihei Road on Monday afternoon marked the eighth such blaze to blacken cane fields since May 19, and Maui fire officials are asking residents to help identify the person or people responsible for setting the fires.

So far, the cane fires have consumed about 42.5 acres, officials said. There have been no injuries, but Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. has reported estimated losses of $182,500 to its sugar crops.

“Most of the fires took place in easily accessible areas,” according to an announcement of the request for public assistance. “Fire Department officials believe the fires may have been intentionally set because there are no obvious points of ignition, such as downed power lines, lightning strikes or camp fires.”

Police are investigating several fires as first-degree criminal property damage cases.

A news conference has been called this morning for Fire Chief Jeff Murray to discuss the fires with reporters.

Fire officials said the list of fires includes:

* May 19, reported at 2:35 p.m., along Holomua Road near Makawao Union Church.

* June 1, two fires – one reported at 8:23 p.m. along Holomua Road in two different areas 150 feet apart; and the other alarm at 10 p.m. near Kama’aina Road and Mokulele Highway.

* Thursday and Friday, three fires – the first reported at 10:57 p.m. near Honoapiilani Highway, south of the Waikapu on 30 restaurant; the second at 11:44 p.m. along Pulehu Road, about a mile mauka of the Central Maui Landfill; and the third at 12:11 a.m. along Kuihelani Highway, about 200 yards east of the Maui Lani Parkway intersection.

* Sunday, reported at 12:45 p.m., along Hana Highway, across the street from Mama’s Fish House.

* Monday, at 1:40 p.m., along North Kihei Road, near Honoapiilani Highway and the parking triangle.

In that last fire on Monday, Kihei firefighters and a Kahului tanker responded to the alarm, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. The fire was under control at 2:07 p.m. and extinguished at 2:45 p.m.

Damage was estimated at $2,500.