Suspicious fire guts 2 Waiau stores
The blaze leaves the strip mall so unstable, fire investigators must wait to continue work
A "suspicious" fire destroyed two businesses in a strip mall near the Waiau power plant early yesterday.
The fire was reported at 1:38 a.m. at Waiau Center, 98-450 Kamehameha Highway. Within minutes it had engulfed South Pacific Seafood, a retail store; the space formerly occupied by Hawaiian Chef restaurant; and Pat's Island Delights, another retail food store, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig.
It took 40 firefighters until 3:10 a.m. to bring the fire under control, and it was still smoldering after daybreak.
Police evacuated the Zippy's restaurant fronting the strip mall and 20 residents from five homes behind the mall because they were worried that one of the businesses, a pool supply company, might contain chlorine.
But they later learned that there was no pool supply company in the mall, so the residents were allowed to return.
The fire is believed to have started in South Pacific Seafood. After the flames were doused, the building was shifting, making it difficult for fire investigators to determine the cause, although they said it was suspicious.
"The structure is damaged to the point where it is too dangerous to work at the moment," Seelig said. "This isn't gonna be a quick one."
Pedro Fernandez, 71, lives behind the mall and was awakened by the sound of sirens and explosions about 2 a.m.
He watched the blaze from across the street as flames reached almost 40 feet, he said.
"It was too noisy and I couldn't sleep," he said. "The fire was very high, very bright."
Other businesses in the mall were closed yesterday because power had been cut. Some of them sustained smoke and water damage.
No one was hurt. The cause of the fire and damage estimates were not available yesterday.
Seelig said an excavator was used to remove material from the partially collapsed structure yesterday to allow fire investigators to work in the area. He said it might take days to complete the investigation.