Fatal Puna fire under investigation

A Hawaii Police Department detective said Friday there was “nothing suspicious at this point” about a Puna structure fire in which an individual apparently perished.

Detective Jesse Kerr said investigators think the deceased party was a man but weren’t certain because of the body’s condition.


Seven units responded to the fire at 16-2421 Ainaloa Drive after the call was received at 1:23 a.m. Friday, with the first unit arriving at 1:34 a.m.

Arriving firefighters found the one-story structure, which was behind another home on the gated property, “fully involved in fire.” The body was discovered during what was described in a written Hawaii Fire Department statement as “mop-up” operations.

The fire was reported under control at 1:45 a.m. and extinguished at 2:05 a.m.

“It’s totally gone,” Kerr said about the structure, which a written police statement described as “a small detached studio.”

Smoke remained visible on the property hours after the fire, and fire officials estimated the damage at $180,000.

The front home appeared undamaged, and a horse and a dog could be seen on the property from the street.

Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Perreira brought Kaimi, the department’s fire dog, onto the property late Friday morning.

“It smelled like a campfire burning, so that’s what I thought it was,” said a neighbor, who declined to identity himself.

The neighbor said he was “probably asleep” and didn’t see or hear responders.

The neighbor also said he didn’t know who lived in the structure that burned.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

Anyone with information related to the investigation, currently classified as an unattended death, is asked to contact Kerr at 961-2379 or at jesse.kerr@hawaiicounty.gov.

Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and might be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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