Big Isle school hopes to resume today
Police are following leads that are related to a $1.5 million fire
KAILUA-KONA » Police are chasing several leads in their investigation into what caused a fire last week at an administrative building at Hilo's Waiakea High School.
Police are urging anyone with information about the latest string of fires to call detective Tom Poy at 808-961-2383, the police nonemergency number at 808-935-3311 or CrimeStoppers at 808-961-8300.
School officials, meanwhile, hope to have classes resume for Waiakea's 1,300 students today, almost one week after the blaze caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.
Police Capt. Chadwick Fukui said the fire apparently started in the registrar's office, which was gutted. It came the same week third-quarter report cards were due to be handed out.
Fukui said the fire appeared to have been set deliberately. But he said it was not clear if someone was attempting to destroy school records or if the blaze was simply one in a series of arson fires at the school.
School officials said they do not believe any records were permanently lost.
Detectives were following up on a number of leads, Fukui said, and calls still were coming in to police hot lines.
School Principal Patricia Nekoba said it was the third suspicious fire on campus within two months. The others damaged portable classrooms on Feb. 15 and April 5.
Fukui said all three fires could be linked because at least one of the earlier fires also was set deliberately.
The latest fire, which set off alarms shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday, damaged the principal's and vice principal's offices along with areas used by counselors and special-education staff. No one was injured.
Fukui said the fire investigation was a police priority because it occurred at a school and because it could indicate an escalation in seriousness if one arsonist started all three recent blazes.
"Unfortunately, lots of innocent people are hurt by this, including students who need those records to apply to colleges. One person can screw it up for a lot of people," Fukui said. "It's detrimental to the whole community. It can put fear and unrest in the community."
Police are being cautious as they investigate and are looking at every scenario, he said.
"You don't know what's in the person's mind," Fukui said.
Investigators from the state Department of Accounting and General Services and the school's insurance company were expected to continue assessing the damage next week.
The blaze forced Waiakea to cancel classes for the rest of the week, though some days would have been taken off regardless for a previously scheduled teacher training day and the Good Friday holiday.