Witness describes Captain Cook gas station fire

  • Vehicles catch fire at Patel's Spirit Gas Station in Captain Cook Monday morning. (Photo courtesy Jake Newlon)
  • The charred remains of two vehicles that caught fire at Patel's Spirit Gas Station in Captain Cook remain after HFD personnel extinguished the flames. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The charred remains of two vehicles that caught fire at Patel's Spirit Gas Station in Captain Cook remain after HFD personnel extinguished the flames. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

CAPTAIN COOK — A family owned gas station in South Kona caught fire Monday morning after a vehicle apparently ignited while pumping gas.

The Hawaii Fire Department responded to Patel’s Spirit Gas Station around 8:50 a.m. for a reported vehicle on fire, the police and fire departments reported. Two HFD engines attempted to extinguish two vehicles engulfed in flames parked in the gas pump area. The fire spread to an overhead roof and the front of the structure.

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Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire at 9:04 a.m.

Jake Newlon, owner of Big Jake’s Island BBQ located across the street form Patel’s, was outside of his restaurant when the fire started.

“I saw smoke, then it just grew and grew,” said Newlon. “Then, the whole place was on fire.”

Newlon said the explosion neighbors heard was the tires blowing up. He also said that shortly before the fire, a gas tanker filled the station with 2,000 gallons of fuel.

Police said that through their investigation and speaking with witnesses, a spark possibly occurred while 58-year-old Douglas Kinnear was pumping gas into his friend’s early 1970s Toyota Landcruiser.

The spark possibly ignited the gas and caused a fire that eventually spread to another vehicle and the building/gas pump area. Michael Graff, 28, was inside of the vehicle that Kinnear was pumping gas into when this occurred and was able to exit the vehicle without injuries.

Another patron, 66-year-old Shanon Van Dyke, was inside her 2006 Scion SB parked at the adjacent pump when she saw a flash from the other car and flames spreading from the nozzle to the gas pump. She stated that she jumped out of her vehicle, fled the area and didn’t suffer any injuries.

Kinnear suffered second-degree burns and was taken to Straub Hospital on Oahu for further treatment.

An HFD fire inspector was on scene and related that the event that started the fire is impossible to determine; although static discharge is common and may have been the cause.

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The proprietor of the gas station was visibly shaken and declined to provide comment after the fire was extinguished.

The southbound lane of Mamalahoa Highway was closed while HFD worked to extinguish the fire.

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