Police investigate whether Sand Island fires motivated by reveng - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Police investigate whether Sand Island fires motivated by revenge

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)

Police are investigating whether a suspicious brush fire that cut off water to a Sand Island homeless shelter was motivated by revenge.

Witnesses say flames broke out Tuesday in Sand Island about a half hour after the state swept the area of illegal campers and put up a fence warning squatters to stay off the property. The land, not far from the Sand Island draw bridge, is leased by the University of Hawaii.

"When we reviewed our surveillance video from the area we saw an individual leaving the area," said UH associate Dean Sandy Shor. "As he or she walked by — the fire started behind them."

The video shows a total four separate fires — all igniting in less than 90 seconds.

"It does concern me. Certainly we hope it's not retaliation," Shor said.

An influx of illegal campers started moving into the area last November after being forced from under the Nimitz Viaduct. Despite repeated offers of help, most have no interest in moving into homeless shelters, advocates say.

The fire wasn't large, but it did harm those who are trying to rebuild their lives.

Kimo Carvalho, spokesman for Hale Mauliola, said the shelter has no water.

Carvalho added this latest brush fire wasn't the first. Another one happened earlier this week.

The Tuesday fire, though, put a major strain on the shelter's already limited resources.

Flames melted an 80-foot portion of PVC piping that supplies water to the shelter.

"It's frustrating to deal with situations like this," said Carvalho. "They're not able to shower. They're not able to bathe. So what we're doing is transporting them to our Iwilei facility just to access water."

The city says water should be restored to the shelter Thursday morning. There's no word yet on how much repairs will cost. 

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