Honolulu police have opened an investigation into a fire at the Kailua home of the owner of the company that recently took over the Waikiki Beach concessions, even as the Honolulu Fire Department is unable to determine the cause.
HFD said it received the fire alarm for a home on Iliaina Street at 6:08 p.m. Friday. When the first responders arrived a minute later they found flames to the two-story home fully involved.
Nine units and 34 HFD personnel responded to the alarm and got the flames under control by 6:26 p.m., and fully extinguished by 8:01 p.m. No one was injured in the fire.
HFD fire investigators were at the home today and estimated the fire’s damage at $800,000 to the structure and $400,000 to its contents. The investigators, however, were not able to determine the cause of the fire and closed the case after classifying the cause as “undetermined.”
HFD Capt. Carlton Yamada says undetermined means the investigators analyzed all possible causes but there was insufficient evidence to identify any one specific cause. He said undetermined also means there was insufficient evidence to eliminate other potential causes. He said the department can reopen the case if new information becomes available.
The Iliaina Street home belongs to Brian Benton, the owner of Dive Oahu Inc. The company is the vendor for two Waikiki Beach concessions after submitting the lowest bid to the city.
Benton or his company manager did not respond to requests for comment.
Dive Oahu didn’t take over the concessions immediately after the city awarded the company two five-year contracts in April. One of the other previous vendors, Star-Beachboys Inc., sued to prevent the city from installing Dive Oahu. Star-Beachboys moved out in May after a state judge denied the previous vendor’s request for temporary restraining order.
The other vendor, Hawaiian Ocean’s Waikiki, Inc., moved out later.
Joe Tvrdy, 72, who lives across the street, said he and his wife were having dinner at the back of the house when they heard a loud explosion, “a big boom.”
“My wife says it sounded like a cannon,” he said.
“We were worried about burning material, and worried for Brian,” he said.
“Everybody knows the problems he had when” he became contractor for the Waikiki beach concessions,” Tvrdy said. “As far as the relationship to the fires,” he said he doesn’t know.
Tvrdy said the fire started at the Ilihau Street side of the house, swept through the house and toward the other end where there was a new addition that included a garage and upstairs ohana unit.
“He kept it really well,” he said. “It’s really a shame.”
“Brian’s a good friend and a good neighbor,” he said.
Star-Advertiser reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.