Police have opened an arson investigation into this month's brush fire that burned about 7,000 acres in Waialua, including this area along Kaukonahua Road near Poamoho.
Ranchers suffering from fire damage
The deliberately set blaze ruined facilities
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The 7,000-acre Waialua brush fire was deliberately set, an investigator with the Honolulu Fire Department has determined.
Police have opened an arson investigation after the fire investigator determined the blaze originated in a heap of dried brush that was intentionally ignited.
The heap was on a slope of an irrigation reservoir above the Dole Co. pineapple fields about seven miles west of Kamehameha Highway and one mile east of Poamoho Gulch.
The fire was not part of an agricultural burn, officials said.
The Waialua fire began Aug. 12 and was declared extinguished on Tuesday. It was Oahu's largest brush fire this season but did not damage any homes.
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When Poamoho rancher Eldon Kirito learned the 7,000-acre Waialua wildfire was deliberately set, he was not angry even though he nearly lost his house, suffered financial losses and had to sell some of his livestock.
Instead, Kirito spoke of the tremendous cost to taxpayers to fight the wildfire that began Aug. 12 and was extinguished Tuesday.
"It's a big loss," he said. "It's really unnecessary. The city, the state, all this extra money. Look at all the choppers they had to fly."
A Honolulu Fire Department investigator determined the fire was intentionally set and was not part of an agricultural burn.
HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said yesterday that the fire investigator does not determine motive, whether it was malicious or accidental, and the matter has been turned over to police.
Police have opened an arson investigation, said Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu.
The investigator determined the blaze started in a pile of dried brush on the slope of an irrigation reservoir above the Dole Co. pineapple fields, fire officials said. It was a quarter-mile west of Kamehameha Highway and a mile east of Poamoho Gulch.
Seelig said the fire investigator located the point of origin and determined the probable cause. No accelerant was used, but physical evidence and witness statements as to where the fire started led the investigator to his conclusion.
Farmers and ranchers were hardest hit.
"My home was so close to going up in flames," Kirito said.
His cedar house was surrounded by flames, his neighbor said.
Kirito said those responsible for the fire should be held accountable, and if they are minors, their parents should be held responsible.
"They don't realize what they're doing," he said. "They think it's fun, but they don't know how devastating and how much people you hurt."
What already was a lean year for Kirito due to dry conditions has turned disastrous. He has sold off some cattle because grazing areas have been lost to the fire.
He is spending $300 a week to feed 40 horses and less than a dozen head of beef cattle because grazing land was burned.
The fire destroyed thousands of water lines, piping and fencing on his property.
Rancher Bob Cherry has suffered similar losses, and nearly lost 100 cows trapped by the fire. He also feared his home would burn. "It really makes you mad to think that people do things like that," he said. "They don't think it's going to bother anybody. They think they're just having fun. I hope they catch the person."
Farmer Al Santoro questioned why the Fire Department did not get assistance from the military with their helicopters sooner.
"They had a hell of a time getting enough resources to keep the fire from spreading, and that's where they lost it," Santoro said.
He said the Fire Department's two helicopters were too busy keeping the fire away from homes to protect farms.
Helicopters from the Hawaii Army National Guard, the Marines, HPD, the Fire Department, and several contracted by the state made numerous water drops.
The fire covered a vast area from the range area of Schofield Barracks to the mountains above Waialua High School, across the plains of Poamoho into gulches, and threatened homes and farms in Waialua near Otake Camp.
No homes were damaged by the fire.