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Firefighters encounter piranhas, boa constrictor in burned home

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:53 a.m. HST, Feb 26, 2011


Firefighters found a large snake and four piranhas — all illegal in Hawaii — in one of four houses damaged by fire in Alewa Heights Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, about a dozen people from three families were displaced by the fire and received help from the American Red Cross Hawaii chapter, fire Capt. Terry Seelig said.

The fire began about 4:45 p.m. at an abandoned home at 2034 Iholena St. The house is at the intersection with Lolena Street and across from Alewa Park.

Damage to the house was estimated at $300,000. Fire investigators are not expected to report the cause of the blaze until sometime next week, Seelig said.

Neighbors said the home had been empty for at least a year.

Damage to two Lolena Street homes was estimated at $75,000 and $30,000, respectively, Seelig said. A house on Iholena that was still under construction sustained about $10,000 in damage.

The boa constrictor and four piranhas were found by firefighters in a unit of one of the three partially damaged homes. The animals were unharmed, officials said. Firefighters notified police who, in turn, called the Hawaiian Humane Society, Seelig said.

Humane Society officials retrieved the animals Thursday night and turned them over to the state Department of Agriculture yesterday, said Starr Dods, Humane Society spokeswoman.

The snake is about 5 feet long and the piranhas about 5 inches long, said Janelle Saneishi, agriculture spokeswoman.

Possession of illegal animals is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $200,000.

Saneishi said it has not been determined whether charges will be pursued against the animals' owner.

The boa constrictor is not poisonous but can be dangerous to humans as well as other animals. They can grow up to 12 feet long and normally eat small mammals such as mice and rats, Saneishi said. Because they have no natural predators in Hawaii, snakes pose a danger to native birds, she said.

Piranhas are freshwater fish known for their razor-like teeth. Their diets consist of insects, worms and other fish, but they also eat animal carcasses and vegetation, Saneishi said.

Anyone in possession of illegal animals is asked to turn in the animals under the state's amnesty program to avoid prosecution. They can be surrendered at any Department of Agriculture office, municipal zoo or humane society location. Anyone with information on illegal animals is asked to call the Pest Hotline at 643-PEST.

 






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