Dangerous wildfire was deliberately set

Published: Aug. 19, 2011 at 10:40 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 at 12:01 AM HST
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By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Honolulu police have taken over the investigation into Thursday's wildfire in Haleiwa after the fire department determined the blaze was deliberately set.

"I came around the corner and there's ten foot or 15 foot high flames right here at the corner of the property," Renie Lindley said while standing on her second floor lanai pointing to burned brush about 15 yards from her home.

"I was pretty much shaking just to think that everything (in her home) would be lost in just like that," Lindley said when asked if she was worried the flames might spread to her house.

The blaze threatened several homes on Wana Place and Smiley Place.

It was an intentional act, not an accident, that put people and property in danger.

"An incendiary fire will be investigated as arson. It is a serious crime," said Honolulu Fire Captain Terry Seelig.

The fire prompted administrators to evacuate students from Haleiwa Elementary School. It flushed homeless people out of the brush near Kaiaka State Recreation Area and destroyed some of their camps. No one was hurt and flames were stopped just short of reaching homes ... but nerves were frayed.

"That's only four doors down and I guess right in their back yard was the fire," said Gina VanEssan.

VanEssan finds it difficult to believe someone would intentionally put her family in danger by starting a wildfire.

"It's just ignorance I think. People think it's not going to harm anything lighting a brush fire, but it's so close to houses. You can hurt a lot of people," she said.

The fire department said there are things people can to do protect their homes from a wildfire.

It suggests creating a fire break around homes so flames cannot easily jump from brush to houses; getting rid of combustibles including dried leaves, stacks of newspaper, or old cardboard boxes; keeping vegetation green so it is slower to catch fire; and developing an evacuation plan.

"If there were a wildfire in my community, do I know how to get out to safety? It may not be at your property yet, but it may cut off your access," Seelig said.

He suggested people know what valuables they want to take in the event they have to leave in a hurry.

Lindley grabbed her love birds, prized dogs, and pet goat ... put them in her truck and took off.

"Fire is nothing to play with," she said.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.