Island History for Friday, October 28, 2011

In the early morning hours of Sunday, July 2, 1939, the worst fire in the history of Waimea, Kaua‘i was ignited by a short circuit in a truck inside a garage on C. B. Hofgaard Co. property located on the northwest corner of La‘au and Moana roads.

The fire soon erupted into a blaze that quickly spread to an adjacent warehouse that had formerly been used as the Waimea Theater, also on Hofgaard Co. property.  From there it leapt makai across La‘au Rd. into the Hofgaard lumber yard.

It was Gosuku Seto who first noticed smoke issuing from the garage while fishing on Waimea Pier and who immediately turned in an alarm, and when County Supervisor Noboru Miyake of Waimea was informed of the fire, he ordered county fire equipment brought from Hanapepe, Koloa and Lihu‘e.

The Waimea Fire Department, joined later by the other firemen, reacted quickly by hosing streams of water on the flaming garage, warehouse and lumber yard.

They also hosed other buildings, threatened yet untouched by fire, located in the block bordered by Pokole, La‘au, Moana and the main road running through Waimea to Kekaha — work that prevented the fire from consuming them and spreading farther into Waimea.

The Waimea and Kekaha sugar plantations contributed by sending men in trucks to the scene to assist in fighting the fire, and volunteer firefighters, attracted by the flames, fought the fire by clearing a wide firebreak in the lumber yard to stop the fire from traveling further to nearby buildings. 

Fire damage that destroyed the garage, the storage warehouse, seven trucks and a portion of the lumber yard was estimated at $40,000. 

Grateful merchants, whose stores were saved by the firefighters’ efforts, expressed their thanks in the morning by providing them with food.

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