HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Witnesses said a cooking stove may have been to blame for a fire that caused $500,000 damage to the Manoa Nails Salon in the Manoa Marketplace shopping center Sunday.
The Honolulu Fire Department said the blaze was first reported just before 10 a.m.
"What appears to have happened is there were some containers of acetone that became overheated due to some cooking operation in the kitchen of this nail salon," said Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig.
"We have gallons of acetone and lotions and stuff in the back so we can re-fill our things, and I guess the acetone was too close to the gas stove, and it got too hot and exploded," said salon employee Josephine Nguyen.
Acetone is used in nail polish remover. It is also very flammable.
The fire happened on a busy morning, with many shoppers at the Sunday Farmer's Market just below the salon.
"All I saw was white smoke coming out and ladies screaming, and one of the women was singed or burned by the stove," said shopper Carole Vierra.
"My co-worker was trying to put out the fire and the flames got her, so she ran out," said Nguyen. "I ran out and tried to get the fire extinguisher to try to put it out, but it exploded once more."
Emergency medical officials said the woman was taken to the hospital in serious condition, although the fire department said the injuries were relatively minor.
Fire crews also found it difficult to fight the flames, which spread into the attic above the second-floor shop. "The way this building is built, you have some pretty substantial ceilings, which require us to pull down in order to open to find the fire, and a fairly well-built roof," said Seelig.
That same construction also helped to keep the flames contained. Even so, smoke still drifted out of the shop more than an hour after the fire started.
Workers at Manoa Nails said they have been using the propane stove to prepare food for years. Authorities are still trying to determine the kind of stove it was, and whether it was legal to have in the salon. Legal or not, Seelig said it was not advisable to have it there.
Fire investigators estimated damage at $500,000 to the building and its contents. According to Seelig, the amount of damage and rubble caused by the fire will prevent the department from doing a full investigation until Monday.
A Bank of Hawaii branch below the salon was damaged by water, but Seelig said it was because a water pipe in the building failed due to the fire, and not because of firefighting efforts. A Bank of Hawaii spokesman said the branch will be closed Monday and perhaps longer due to water damage to the ceiling and floor. Bankoh said customers can visit its branches in Moiliili, Waialae-Kahala and Kaimuki, where it will have additional employees.