Fire ravages student farm for third time

Scott Franklin
Scott Franklin
Michelle Weber
Michelle Weber

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MAKAHA (KHNL) - A farm on West Oahu falls victim to a fire yet again. The non-profit that runs it says this is the third time someone set it ablaze. It's a frustrating loss for a nearby school that uses the farm as a learning center.

At Hoa Aina O Makaha, lessons come alive.

"I learned that the duck there wagging its tail was raised by puppies. He's still trying to learn how to be a duck," said Justin Suckoll, a 4th grader at Makaha Elementary School.

For some students, the farm is more than just a place to learn.

"This is where me and some of my friends come here after farm work," said 6th grader, Jaleel Shavers, "Right after we finish working, many people come and they're like friends right after."

On Monday, students at Makaha Elementary learned someone set the hale on the farm on fire.

"Why would they want to put the hale on fire?" asked Suckoll.

"I was devastated. It brought tears to my eyes to see the way the hale looked," said Michelle Weber, a Makaha Elementary teacher.

"People think it's funny but this is for the kids and like today we had classes, it's just a real shame," said Scott Franklin, whose stepfather runs the farm, and is the founder of Hoa Aina O Makaha.

Franklin says the crime was pre-meditated. The hoses near the hale were missing.

"So I pretty much had to break one of the sprinklers on the side and put it out," he said.

This is fire number three within the last seven years.

"The first time this place burned, it was a decoy to rip off the last quonset on the farm," said Franklin.

"It's like losing one of your family. We put our heart and soul in something like this," said Judy Seladis-Cocquio, Franklin's mom, who also helps run the farm.

The fire isn't the only crime. In the past week, thieves stole 15 chickens, and took $400 worth of orchids in the nursery.

"What upsets me the most is thinking that it may be someone in the neighborhood," said Lynn Okamura, Vice Principal of Makaha Elementary, also a member of the Board of Directors for Hoa Aina O Makaha.

Damage is estimated at $10,000. But the spirit among students is priceless.

"The children are saying we have to rebuild, we cannot give up," said Seladis-Cocquio.

Since the wood of the hale is from the Big Island, Hoa Aina O Makaha says it could take months to rebuild. The non-profit plans to hold a fundraiser to help pay for repairs. A date for that has not been set yet.