PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - The early morning fire that destroyed a home and killed an elderly woman in Pearl City on Friday was intentionally set, according to the Hawaii Fire Department.
Betty Hagihara, 97, was killed in the blaze, which began at around 4:30 a.m. outside the house on an open-air patio before quickly spreading to the rest of the home and carport.
Neighbors say that shortly after the fire broke out, two men who live across the street rushed over to help.
One of the men, Randy Yoshimura, says he ran to the home and pulled residents Ronald Kawakami and Mikiko Murakami safely out of the window. Yoshimura says when he called out to Kawakami's mother, no one came out.
According to Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig, the home was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene. Seelig says that when fire crews arrived, they were unable to enter the home due to the amount of flames.
Fire crews were eventually able to get the blaze under control, but Hagihara never made it out of the house. Honolulu Fire Department investigators who continued working at the scene of the fire after it was extinguished now believe the flames were intentionally set.
HFD says the case will now be turned over to the Honolulu Police Department, who will conduct their own arson investigation with the help of Fire Department officials.
Neighbors say the home, which was recently remodeled and repainted, has been a target for thieves over the past several weeks.
The American Red Cross is assisting the residents affected by the fire to ensure their immediate emergency needs for food, shelter and clothing are met.