HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It starts with a blaze and billowing smoke. If it looks suspicious it falls to investigators to find answers.
For over a decade, retired Honolulu Fire Dept. Capt. Glenn Solem led the department's investigative team.
"Most arson cases are confusing to begin with because there's no logical reason for the fire starting like it did," he said.
In determining if a fire is arson, eyewitness accounts and signs like burn patterns guide investigators to a fire's point of origin.
"A witness might say that they saw someone in an area of a fire doing something suspicious," Honolulu Fire Dept. Capt. Gary Lum said.
Through July there have been 238 cases of arson on Oahu compared to 413 in all of 2009. All arson cases are lumped into one category.
"It could be a vehicle fire. It could be a house fire. It could be a building fire or wild land fire. It could be a rubbish fire," Solem said.
In the past few weeks, investigations have been ongoing on five brushfires in Central Oahu that fall in the "suspicious" category.
"On the mainland the big brushfires normally start with a lightening strike," Lum said. "For us out here the sky is clear. There's no sign of inclement weather. That would point to a sign that the brushfire might be started intentionally."
Solem said solving arson cases takes dogged determination.
"I don't think anytime you solve a case that you can say that you're lucky," he said. "You may have been lucky on receiving some information but a lot of it is hard dedicated work."
Firefighters defer to police in determining if a serial arsonist is involved.
Solem encourages the public to get involved and call 911 if they see anything suspicious.