Arson suspected in Waikiki hotel fire

Arson suspected in Waikiki hotel fire
Evacuated guests
Evacuated guests

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police have opened an arson investigation after fire officials said a dumpster fire at the Moana Surfrider - A Westin Resort & Spa on Kalakaua Avenue early this morning was intentionally set.

It took about 30 firefighters nearly 20 minutes to get control of the flames that threatened to ignite the hotel around 2:45 a.m.

Honolulu Fire Captain, Terry Seelig, said crews were on scene in 6 minutes and eventually called the fire extinguished at 3:54 a.m.

Hundreds of guests were evacuated during the firefight, awakened either by fire alarms and announcements, or by hotel workers who went room to room. At first only those in the building near the fire were evacuated then the entire property, according to hotel spokeswoman, Marsha Weinert.

Officials say no injuries were reported. But a few guests, like Kansas City, Missouri resident David Oshel complained that they heard nothing in their rooms.

"All of a sudden we hear this big alarm outside in the bar area and an announcement made in Japanese and we got up and looked and saw alot of people standing around outside," said Oshel. "So, I called the front desk and she said you can evacuate if you want to."

That bothered Oshel whose in Honolulu with his wife celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

"I am upset. Our lives could have been in danger," he said, "and they made no announcement in English."

Weinert said the alarm system was checked after the fire this morning and found to have been working properly along with both of its alternating Japanese and English language announcements.

Nonetheless, she said, "the hotel is working with guests on a case by case basis to address any concerns."

In the daylight, the visible damage appears to be contained to the adjacent wall next to the dumpster, where you can see alot of soot damage and paint bubbling around a doorway. Flames lashed inside that room, where the Honolulu Coffee Company is operating.

"Sprinklers went off and there's water everywhere," said Director of Operations for the Honolulu Coffee Company, Sam Suiter. "We're trying to kind of access all the damage to our equipment. So, there's a lot of work to be done."

The store had to close losing out on serving up to 700 customers, according to Suiter.

Workers passed out samples and directed customers to their kiosk across Kalakaua Avenue at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel.

"We're really hoping to get everything up by tomorrow or the next day," said Suiter, "but we have significant damage to take care of."

Police are checking hotel surveillance footage after security reported a suspicious person seen in the area prior to the fire.

Guests were cleared to return to their rooms around 4 a.m.

Statement from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii

No guests or employees were injured as it relates to the fire that broke out early this morning in a dumpster adjacent to the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa. All guests were safely evacuated and hotel operations are back to normal. The exterior of the hotel's Banyan wing sustained minor damage. The Honolulu Coffee Company, located next to the dumpster did receive smoke, fire and water damage, and will remain closed until further notice. We are cooperating with the Honolulu Fire Department and the Honolulu Police Department on their ongoing investigation and ask that all other questions be directed to the local authorities.

I would like to send a special mahalo to the Honolulu Fire Department and Honolulu Police Department for their quick response and kokua in ensuring that our guests and associates were safe, and that the historic Moana Surfrider sustained as little damage as possible.

Keith Vieira
Senior Vice President, Director of Operations
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii and French Polynesia

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