Saturday, January 6, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 6, 2001

Police seek answers in fatal Palolo house fire

2001 arrived with much less fireworks smoke

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Detectives today will canvass a Palolo neighborhood to search for witnesses who may provide answers to a fatal New Year’s Eve house fire believed to be caused by illegal aerial fireworks.

Lilliam Herring was alonew in her Myrtle Street home when it caught fire on New Year's Eve, killing her and her two dogs.

Photo courtesy KHNL

Police want to know which households were burning fireworks on Myrtle Street on New Year’s Eve between 9:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., said Honolulu Police Department Detective Letha DeCaires.

Lillian Herring, 80, was alone in her house at 2615 Myrtle Street on New Year’s Eve when a fire broke out near the carport and quickly spread through the house. After the fire was extinguished, Herring’s body was found in the living room. The fire also killed Herring’s two mixed-breed dogs.

"Police want a full and complete investigation," DeCaires said. "Most people in the neighborhood knew who was doing aerials and who wasn’t. Those people who have knowledge may come forward."

DeCaires said police have no leads in the investigation and recently gathered enough detectives from the homicide and gang unit to perform a neighborhood canvass this evening.

Fire investigators believe fireworks started the fire, but they have not found any fireworks evidence such as a stick or fireworks material at the fire origin near the carport. The fire likely started where Herring stored newspapers she recycled each week to raise money for needy children.

"Right now, it’s most probably fireworks," Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Paul Stankiewicz said. "There was no accidental cause besides fireworks and no electrical cause. No spontaneous combustibles."

Arson has not been ruled out, Stankiewicz said, but investigators are leaning towards fireworks because they were "landing all over the neighborhood" and no one saw anyone at the carport just before the fire.

Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said homicide charges could be considered under certain factual circumstances of this case.

"In theory, if somebody was setting off fireworks and started a fire in somebody’s residence and didn’t do anything about it and the house burned down and killed somebody, there would be a question on whether it could be prosecuted as a homicide," Carlisle said. "It’s a possibility."

Earlier this week, Gov. Ben Cayetano asked for a total fireworks ban on Oahu after the widespread use of illegal aerials on New Year’s Eve that caused nearly $400,000 in property damage.

Anyone who can provide specific addresses of households that were using aerial fireworks can call CrimeStoppers anonymously at 955-8300.

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