Historic Koloa building gutted by early morning fire

Kaua‘i police have arrested a woman in connection with an early Wednesday fire in Koloa that gutted a historic building used in the plantation-era as a Japanese temple.

A police investigation into the fire led to the arrest of Aresenia Pearce, 34, on a charge of criminal property damages in the first degree.

County officials said the fire caused $60,000 in damages to the contents of the building. The damage to the building has yet to be determined.

How the fire was started is being investigated by inspectors with the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

The building was being used as a reservations office for the Kauai ATV activities company.

A company official said Kauai ATV, which offers tours in south Kaua‘i and areas mauka of Kahili Mountain Park, is the largest guided all-terrain vehicle business in the United States.

The fire was reported to authorities at 3:34 a.m. and was brought under control at 3:55 a.m. by 13 firefighters from Koloa, Kalaheo and Lihu‘e, according to Kaua‘i Fire Department Battalion Chief Mitchell Ikeda.

No one was injured putting out the fire. Two engines from Koloa and Kalaheo and a rescue truck from Lihu‘e were used to suppress flames that threatened to engulf the building near the intersection of Waikomo and Weliweli roads.

Ikeda said he didn’t believe the fire threatened other homes before it was put out.

The building was believed to have been constructed some 60 years ago.

Marleny Cotrim, a marketing director for Kauai ATV, said the company moved into the building four years ago, and that renovations were restricted apparently because the building has historical significance.

The small building was estimated to have a floor space of between 500 and 600 square feet.

A Kaua‘i Fire Department official said the interior of the building was gutted and that the roof on the back side of the building appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

“It looked to be a single-wall (construction building). It looked like a plantation-style building,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Cotrim said the fire destroyed computers and some reservations records, but company representatives are already looking for another building in Koloa to house their reservations office.

“We are going to find another place in Koloa to conduct our business,” Cotrim said. “This (the reservations office) is just one aspect of our operation. We are truly functional, and have six tours a day.”

Cotrim said it appears full company operations will be slowed for a few weeks while computer reservations files are reconstructed and computer equipment replaced. After that, business should be back to normal, she said.

“We appreciate people’s patience with our booking,” she said. “We lost some bookings. But people are helping us. So I don’t think that it will be so bad.”

Cotrim also said “we run pretty much full every day, about 12 people or more per tour, and we have six tours.”

None of the all terrain vehicles, dune buggies and other outdoor adventure vehicles owned by Kauai ATV were damaged. They were housed elsewhere at the time of the fire, Cotrim said.

The company offers tours using ATVS, an amphibious ATV and a off-road jeep. During a three-hour tour through south Kaua‘i, riders visit areas within a 22,000-acre site inaccessible to the public.

Guides provide riders with information about Kaua‘i’s plant and animal life. In addition, one tour allows riders to drive through the Wilcox Tunnel, a distance of about 1/2 mile. The tunnel was used by Grove Farm Plantation to transfer raw sugar cane from Kipu and other valleys near Lihu‘e to the mill at Koloa for processing.

Another company tour uses ATVs that take riders to a waterfall mauka of Kahili Mountain Park.

Cotrim said more than 30 employees continue to work in spite of fire damage to the reservation side of the company.

Kauai ATV recently completed its fourth year of business on Kaua‘i, and will celebrate the occasion in spite of the fire damage, Cotrim said.

“We were going to shut down on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate our four years,” Cotrim said.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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