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Freed inmate allegedly sets fire to Hilo jail

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / APRIL 1996

    Hawaii Community Correction Center.

Hawaii island police arrested a 33-year-old Hilo man after he allegedly set fire to the old Hilo jail after he was released from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center Monday.

Police arrested the suspect on suspicion of first-degree arson, second-degree burglary, two counts of fourth-degree theft, third-degree criminal property damage and unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle.

Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, said the suspect was released from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center at 5:25 p.m. Monday after he served a sentence for misdemeanor charges that include shoplifting, criminal contempt, criminal trespassing and theft.

More than an hour later, at about 6:40 p.m., staff at the correctional facility called police and the fire department after they observed light coming from the second floor of the old building.

The structure is located outside the perimeter fence of the correctional facility. The second floor is used for storage and the ground floor is used by maintenance personnel.

Twenty-one firefighters responded and observed multiple cells on the second floor of the building fully engulfed in flames.

As firefighters battled the fire and checked whether anyone was on the second floor, police said the suspect emerged from one of the cells and fled.

Nearby correctional officers detained him until police arrived.

Police also discovered vehicles near the building were damaged and items inside were stolen.

Maj. Sam Thomas of the Hawaii Police Department said no inmates at the correctional facility which is located further away from the structure were in danger.

Firefighters brought the fire under control at 6:55 p.m. and extinguished it at 7:09 p.m.

Police said a correctional officer was transported to Hilo Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation and another officer was treated for a laceration sustained when both attempted to extinguish the fire before firefighters arrived.

Schwartz said the officers have since returned to work.

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