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Man arrested for allegedly starting fire in home

Blaze burned Wailuku residence and the rental unit next door

WAILUKU — A man who had been asked to move out of a relative’s residence in Wailuku was arrested for allegedly starting a fire that burned the residence and an adjoining rental unit Wednesday afternoon, according to police.

Kealiiwahamana Neula, 33, also was arrested for trying to start a fire at another relative’s house nearby the same day, police said.

Neula was charged with two counts of first-degree arson and attempted second-degree arson.

At Neula’s initial appearance Friday in Wailuku District Court, Judge Douglas Sameshima granted the prosecution’s request to increase bail for Neula from $20,000 to $200,000.

Neula had asked to be released on supervision, saying he has work with a tree-trimming company.

Deputy Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage opposed the request for lower bail, saying $200,000 was more appropriate for the crimes.

“He’s a danger to the community,” Littlepage said. “He burned two families out of their house and he tried to burn a third.”

The first fire was reported at 3:42 p.m. Wednesday at 2175 Holowai Place, a single-story house that is divided into two rental units.

Firefighters reported the fire was primarily coming from the back unit where Neula’s relative lives, according to police. The relative, who had been letting Neula sleep on the outside deck, arrived home shortly after the fire started and was concerned that Neula might be inside, police said.

No one was found in either unit of the house.

The relative told police she recently had asked Neula to move out and he had agreed.

Surveillance video from a neighbor’s house showed Neula leaving the property at 3:30 p.m., about seven minutes before black smoke was seen coming from the house, according to police.

At about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Neula showed up at another relative’s house on Piihana Road in Wailuku and reportedly tried to set curtains on fire, according to police.

Police arrested Neula at 5 p.m. at the Piihana Road house and reported seeing a glass pipe containing suspected crystal methamphetamine residue in his shorts waistband.

A fire investigation at the house on Holowai Place showed the fire started on the side of the back unit where Neula’s relative lived, according to police. The other unit sustained mostly smoke and water damage, police said.

Damage was estimated at $130,000 to the structure and $30,000 to its contents.

The Fire Department reported that seven people were displaced by the fire.

If he posts bail to be released, Neula was ordered to report for supervision. He also was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to have no contact with the owner and residents of both houses.

Neula is on probation for third-degree assault, Littlepage said. He said Neula’s criminal record also includes convictions for two counts of prohibited possession of a firearm or ammunition, third-degree promoting of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia, abuse, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, failure to appear and third-degree promoting of a detrimental drug.

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