Fire caused about $20,000 in damage to a water sports rental business on Kaanapali Beach yesterday. The company's manager suspects arson. Fire inspector Val Martin, above, ruled out an electrical short circuit.

Arson suspected in
Maui beach blaze

LAHAINA >> A water sports rental business on Kaanapali beach was burned early yesterday morning in what its manager called an act of "theft and arson."

Scotty Martin, manager of the Maui Beach Club, estimated the fire caused about $20,000 in damage.

Martin said the blaze burned a lot of equipment, including a Hobie Cat, three surfboards, sailing equipment, a Zodiac and seven kayaks.

"Everything got trashed," Martin said. "I can't believe anybody did something like that."

He said the burned equipment was on the beach near the Kaanapali Alii resort condominium and was stored in two enclosed 4-foot-high boxes made of plywood. The equipment that was stolen or missing included six gray soft-top surfboards with red-and-blue Hawaiian print and his own 10-foot 2-inch surfboard.

Mark Altier, general manager of the Kaanapali Alii, said several condominium residents called the resort operator about 2:20 a.m. to say they had heard an explosion.

"Whatever incendiary device was put in there made a big blast," he said.

Altier said he spoke with the resort's security, who reported no unusual activity on the beach before the fire.

"It was just a normal night, not a lot of activity," Altier said.

Assistant fire Chief Greg Chong Kee said fire officials are investigating the cause of the blaze. He said firefighters took about 21 minutes to get the fire under control after the initial alarm at 2:29 a.m.

Martin said Maui Beach Club has been operating a beach activities business with proper permits but has had some objections to the operation, including a lawsuit filed recently against the business by three residents at the Whaler resort condominium.

David Flavin, Maui Beach Club owner, said he also received a threatening telephone call Thursday from a Kaanapali beach competitor.

The competitor did not like the proximity of Maui Beach Club's operation to his business, Flavin said.

"He said if we didn't move, he'd take care of it," Flavin said.

Martin said besides renting equipment to visitors and offering surfing lessons, Maui Beach Club workers are usually the first to respond in beach rescues, averaging about 30 a month.

Fire inspector Val Martin said the lids to the equipment boxes appeared to have been opened before the fire started.

He said there were no electrical outlets connected to the boxes and ruled out an electrical short circuit as a possible cause.


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