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Two homes burn in Honokohau Valley

‘High probability’ fires intentionally set

Shown is one of two houses that burned in Honokohau Valley on Thursday. -- Maui Fire Department photo

Police are investigating fires that burned two houses in Honokohau Valley on Thursday.

The first fire was reported at 2:43 p.m., with Napili and Lahaina firefighters arriving at 3:06 p.m. to find a house burning about a half-mile up the valley road from Honoapiilani Highway, said fire Capt. Paul Haake.

Firefighters extinguished the fire, which burned a 16-by-16-foot, single-story structure, which was unoccupied at the time. The structure had been washed about 100 yards from its original location by floodwaters associated with Tropical Storm Olivia.

Previous tenants and neighbors had been removing items from the structure earlier in the day while preparing to remove the structure on the weekend, Haake said. Nearby neighbors saw the structure on fire about two hours after people had stopped removing items, he said.

A few hours later, at 7:12 p.m., Lahaina and Napili firefighters again were dispatched to Honokohau Valley when another house fire was reported. Napili firefighters arrived on scene at 7:33 p.m. to find a 16-by-25-foot, two-story building on fire about a half-mile up the valley road and about 100 yards from the building that had burned earlier in the day.

Firefighters also found a 10-by-10-foot pile of burning wood, vegetation and miscellaneous items about 50 yards southwest of the burning house, Haake said. Both fires were extinguished with help from Lahaina firefighters and a Lahaina tanker, he said.

The house was unoccupied and unlocked when the fire was discovered, Haake said. A neighbor, who was alerted by the smell of smoke, saw the fire and called 911.

The owner was planning to fix up the house, which was at the original area where the first burned house had been located before it was washed downhill by floodwaters, Haake said. The houses had been about 30 feet apart before the flood and are owned by the same person, he said.

Damage was estimated at $40,000 for each house, based on real property tax assessment records.

A fire investigator and two police detectives were sent to investigate the fires, with police securing the scene until daylight Friday.

Haake said the cause of the fires was unknown. But, based on evidence gathered in the investigation and the circumstances, “there is a high probability that these fires were intentionally set,” Haake said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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