Investigators Look For Witnesses To Waianae Church Fire

Ruben Paet
Ruben Paet
Gary Lahens
Gary Lahens

Sep 13, 2006 07:05 PM

by Kristine Uyeno

(KHNL) - Church leaders are wondering why someone would set fire to a place so many came to worship.

At the same time, investigators are asking for your help in finding the arsonists. So far, they have no witnesses.

"The best memory I have of this is chasing my kids around here," said Ruben Paet, Makakilo Stake President.

The multi-purpose room of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Waianae served as a location for many happy events, but burned down on Tuesday.

"It was disheartening to see this happen and all of our members are part of the community. We have 4 or 5 generations of Latter-Day Saints who live on the Leeward Coast, it's a landmark," said Paet.

"We're still trying to determine why, whom, why did they go in there, why they did what they did, what was the reason behind it. Why burn down a church?" asked Gary Lahens with the Honolulu Police Department.

Fortunately no one was inside the building when the fire crews arrived. About three dozen firefighters battled the flames for half an hour.

Investigators believe more than one person was involved in setting the fire. They also say it started in several different areas of the building.

"Because like I said the fire started in the interior. Whoever did it, they knew exactly what they wanted to do was to burn down the building," said Lahens.

In the past few weeks, there have been two break-ins at the church, but right now, police don't believe they're related to the fire. And they don't think this is a hate crime. While police continue their investigation, church members will figure out their next step.

For now, they will meet at the Makakilo location.

Fire officials now estimate it will cost $2.5 million to tear down and rebuild the facility.