Flames Rip Through Mormon Church In Waianae

Tonii Mather
Tonii Mather
Chopper 8 view of firefighters putting out the blaze
Chopper 8 view of firefighters putting out the blaze

Sep 12, 2006 09:07 PM

by Minna Sugimoto

WAIANAE (KHNL) -- A fire causes half-a-million dollars in damage to a church in Waianae.

About three dozen firefighters rush to the Mormon church on Plantation Road and find one of the buildings engulfed in flames. Luckily, no one is inside when firefighters arrive. It takes them half an hour to get the flames under control.

A firefighter hangs on to the roof top, knocking down the flames that are devouring a beloved church.

"I cried. I, you know, I cried," Tonii Mather, church member, said. "What can you do? You're expected to be safe in church."

Thirty-five firefighters battled the intense flames, keeping them from reaching the chapel.

"When I first saw it, it was just a little bit of smoke. Not too, too much," Mather said. "But then, after a few minutes, it got a lot of smoke. Then the flames started shooting out."

The other half of the Mormon church could not be saved.

"The gym is a total wipeout," Mather said. "People gather around there for meetings or kids to play. There's the kitchen off to the side. The bathrooms are over there, classrooms."

Investigators are trying to figure out how the fire started. Some suspect arson.

"In the past two to three weeks, we've had a break-in into our chapel. About one a week," Kainui Nihipali, church member, said. "It's kind of devastating."

Church members stare at the charred building with heavy hearts. They say they will bounce back.

"We all have faith," Mather said. "And we know that we'll all get together and we'll fix it up and we'll go on."

Leaders of the Mormon church are planning to meet Tuesday night to discuss what to do about Sunday's services.

Fire officials say the damage estimate of half-a-million dollars may go up.