Small fire becomes inferno of rumors

LIHUE — The fire outside the back of Pietro’s Pizza and Pasta early Monday was no big deal, thought owner Tom Iannucci.

Maybe $100 damage to a wall. Was put out quickly. Didn’t affect operations. All was fine.

But later that day, surprisingly, it became a big deal.

Iannucci said he began getting calls, emails and text messages from around the state and even Michigan. People were telling him they heard the inside of his restaurant that opened in April was gutted. The building was destroyed. His business was closed.

The media picked up on a county press release and soon, the story was spreading across Hawaii and beyond that Pietro’s was badly damaged. It was on the early and late evening news reports.

One TV station even ran a photo of the Pietro’s Lihue location, which is operating as usual.

“Everybody was wondering, ‘Are you guys closed? Is everything all right?” Iannucci said Tuesday. “People were calling me, ‘You were just on the news.’”

Rumors spread on the coconut wireless, he said, “like wildfire.”

“Nobody was checking the facts there. It was just going,” he said.

But it’s all good, he said, and that’s the message he wants to get out: that Pietro’s is up and running and doing just fine.

“We opened for business as usual,” he said. “It didn’t even affect us.”

The trouble for Iannucci started shortly after the county issued a press release late Monday afternoon. It said first responders extinguished a fire that broke out early Monday morning at Pietro’s Pizza and Pasta at Poipu Shopping Village about 4:30 a.m.

“Kauai Police Department personnel were first on scene, located the fire at the back portion of the restaurant, and utilized fire extinguishers to knock down the flames before fire firefighters from the Koloa station arrived,” the release said. “Once on scene, firefighters discovered a portion of the restaurant’s wall partially burning and fully extinguished the fire.”

The cost of damages was unknown and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The release wasn’t clear if the damage was inside or outside the building, and apparently, no one asked for clarification.

What happened, Iannucci said, was an ember from the brick pizza fire oven may have ignited and caught a back fence on fire, which slightly damaged the building.

“If you have one ember that’s not out completely, that’s all you need,” said Iannucci, who is also the pastor of Breath of Life church in Lihue.

Pietro’s is changing its nightly process of handling the coal embers from the brick oven, he said.

Fortunately, he said, the fire was spotted shortly after igniting, police responded quickly, it was put out and no one was hurt.

However, the ensuing reports of the fire made it seem damage was much worse than it was, and that’s the story that spread quickly. That’s when Iannucci began receiving messages from around the state asking what happened.

“It’s not good for business,” he said.


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