Friday, January 12, 2001
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Updated at 4:20 p.m., Friday, January 12, 2001

Arson suspected in fire that destroys Kalihi warehouse

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

A fire that caused more than $1 million in damage to a Kalihi warehouse this morning started when someone intentionally set fire to a nearby Mitsubishi van, fire officials said.

The investigation has been turned over to arson investigators at the Honolulu Police Department, fire spokesman Capt. Richard Soo said.

Ten fire companies responded to the 2:21 a.m. call at 444 Waiakamilo Road and had the fire under control at 3:13 a.m., Soo said.

Two businesses — Mascot Auto Parts and Electronic Business Machines — occupy the ground floor of the building, which did not have sprinklers, Soo said.

The owner of the car parts store, a 23-year-old man, told officials he and his 22-year-old wife and their 2-year-old daughter were inside the warehouse taking inventory when it caught fire, Soo said.

The man said he smelled smoke, came out and saw the van on fire and a portion of warehouse on fire, Soo said. The family escaped unharmed.

A fire investigation revealed that someone set fire to the Mitsubishi van parked next to the delivery section of the auto parts store, Soo said. The fire then spread to the warehouse. The van belonged to Mascot Auto Parts.

Firefighters placed absorbant pads and pillows along a nearby driveway to prevent what is <P>believed to be motor oil from leaking into the storm drain and contaminating the city’s water supply, Soo said.

Investigators estimated the loss of the contents at more than $1 million and declared the building a total loss with more than $300,000 in damage, Soo said.

The heat of the fire reached such intensity that parts of the building’s steel frame buckled, warped and separated from the tile wall in some areas. The steel roof also buckled and caved in.

While the fire damaged more than $200,000 in contents to Electronic Business Machines, the business still remained open. The business services copy machines and printers, said owner Ron Shirai.

“All our customers are concerned about us,” Shirai said. “There’s lots of smoke, soot all over the place. Our phones were down for at least half a day. We have copy machines in the display room, those are damaged. We can’t turn on the electrical outlets on the floor because the floor is wet. We’re basically cleaning up.

Shirai said he talked with the young owners of Mascot Auto Parts and said it’s fortunate no one got hurt in the fire. “That’s the most important part,” he said.

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