‘Everything is dead:’ Suit claims Parker Ranch was responsible for massive 2021 wildfire

The July 2021 wildfire burned more than 40,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest ever in Hawaii.
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:39 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fourteen Big Island cattle ranchers and farmers are suing the Parker Ranch over last year’s massive fire, which turned their once lush pasturelands and farms into a dust bowl.

“It’s very bad here. Everything is dead still. Lots of dust,” said Joshua Kihe, whose home was destroyed by the fire.

“I lost everything I owned. I lost the house. I lost my cars, family heirlooms, everything.”

The July 2021 wildfire burned more than 40,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest ever in Hawaii.

It torched Jason Mattos’s once lush pasture lands, too.

“We lost our income ― our family tradition ― all gone,” said Mattos, as he teared up during a news conference to announce the lawsuit.

“This fire wen destroy a lot of our family.”

According to the Hawaii County Fire Department, the wildfire was caused by a contractor who was making a fence line for Parker Ranch. While sawing a metal post, fire officials said, the contractor created sparks that first burned a 20-by-20 foot parcel and then quickly spread in the dry and windy conditions.

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The suit alleged that Parker Ranch didn’t take adequate steps to prevent the spread of the fire to their neighbors’ properties.

Attorneys Jim Bickerton and Bridget Morgan said Parker Ranch and its contractor didn’t have an adequate water supply to douse the initial flames, which they said is required by law.

They also said the big landowner could have dug trenches or ditches to stop the fire from spreading from their land, but didn’t.

“We believe that Parker Ranch was either too little or too late in their efforts. They just didn’t do what needed to be done to prevent it from spreading,” said Bickerton.

The lawyers said relocating the homesteaders to greener pastures could cost Parker Ranch millions of dollars.

They added that fixing the nutrient-depleted properties could cost tens of millions. Because the burned roots of the grass, they said nothing can grow back.

“We just were just very disappointed that Parker Ranch has kind of turned the cheek on all of us and has not taken any kind of responsibility,” said Penny Miranda, whose farm was damaged by the fire.

Parker Ranch did not respond to Hawaii News Now’s requests for comment.