Fire breaks out behind Hanapepe Stadium

HANAPEPE — A fire broke out around 8 p.m. Monday in a storage building behind Hanapepe Stadium.

Bystanders said the blaze grew rapidly. The crackling of small flames, initially mistaken for the sound of twigs snapping, became an inferno that engulfed the entire building within minutes, eventually igniting an explosion that forced firefighters to retreat in the face of billowing smoke and flames.

“All of a sudden someone yelled, fire,” said Taylor Martinez, a young woman watching the scene unfold from across a soccer field. Martinez said she was nearby at Port Allen getting something to eat when she heard the commotion and came to check it out.

“We looked across, and the flames were pretty big,” she said. According to Martinez, the police showed up shortly after she got there at about 8:10 p.m. Her friend, Meha Ferreira, described what she saw next.

“And then, like five minutes later, the thing like blew up, like so huge,” Ferreira said. “It looked like lava — like chunks of gold.”

Martinez said smoke and flames spewed suddenly out of the building, and firefighters battling the flames, “had to run back — like literally run back.”

Ky-mani Allen, a nine-year-old boy who lives nearby, may have been the first to notice the flames. He described how he first heard the crackling of burning wood while walking by the building with his father.

“Me and daddy was walking to the bathroom,” he said, when they heard a sound like rustling in the bushes and shined a flashlight in the direction of the sound, thinking someone might be hiding.

“But no one was there, and then I think, it’s a fire!” Ky-mani Allen said. “It started getting bigger and bigger. And then there was smoke coming all over.”

“It was kinda scary at one point, you know?” Akeem Allen said. His son agreed, “Yeah, I was kinda scared.”

“I just kept saying, call 9-1-1! Fire in the stadium! Fire in the stadium!” Akeem Allen said. “Tell them hurry up! It’s growing fast, bro!”

The Kauai Fire Department got to the scene within minutes, according to Akeem Allen, but he said they may not have realized the severity of the situation until they arrived because other residents had recently called the fire department to the area for other relatively minor fires.

“It took them quick, but it took them a little long to be suited up,” Allen said. “They didn’t think it was that serious.”

By 8:45 p.m. it appeared like firefighters had everything under control and were in the process of extinguishing the final remaining embers. But an hour later, thick smoke still poured from the back of the building.

One onlooker said he saw a KFD truck he recognized as one the Lihue fire station deploys to chemical fires that cannot be put out using water. The man did not give his name but said he is familiar with the burning building and knows it to be a county-owned storage facility for the stadium’s maintenance equipment.

He speculated that paint and chemicals like pesticides could be the reason the fire continued to burn for so long and may have required chemical extinguishers.

KFD has not yet released a cause for the fire. Check tomorrow’s edition of The Garden Island for more details.

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