Honolulu firefighters found a large snake and four piranhas – all illegal in Hawaii – in one of four houses damaged by fire in Alewa Heights yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, about a dozen people from three families were displaced by the fire and had to be assisted by the American Red Cross Hawaii chapter, said fire Capt. Terry Seelig.
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 put at $300,000. Fire investigators are not expected to say what they think caused 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 esstimated at $75,000 and $30,000, respectively, Seelig said. A house on Iholena that was still under construction sustained about $10,000 damage.
The boa constrictor and four piranhas were found by firefighters in a unit of one of the three homes partially damaged. They were unharmed, officials said. Firefighters notified police who, in turn, called the Hawaiian Humane Society, Seelig said.
Humane Society officials retrieved the animals last night and they were turned over to the state Department of Agriculture today, said Starr Dods, Humane Society spokeswoman.
The snake is about 5 feet long and the piranhas about five inches long, said Janelle Saneishi, Department of 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 and have a normal diet of small mammals such as mice and rats, Saneishi said. Because they have no natural predators in Hawaii, snakes pose a danger to endangered 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 carcasses and vegetation, Saneishi said.
Anyone in possession of illegal animals is asked to turn the animals in under the state’s amnesty program in order to avoid prosecution. They can be turned in at any Department of Agriculture, municipal zoo, or humane society location. Anyone with information on illegal animals is asked to call the Pest Hotline at 643-PEST.