An arson investigation is underway following a fire that caused major damage to the Old Uncle Billy's Hotel off of Banyan Drive in Hilo early Friday morning (March 4th).
The Hawai'i Police Department (HPD) take a 29-year-old man into custody at the scene for unrelated offenses and not in connection with the fire.
Published by: HIRSC - Hawai'i Island (Hōlualoa) and O'ahu (Waipi'o) Team
The Hawai'i Fire Department (HFD) along with Hawai'i Police Department (HPD) responded to a report of a structure fire at the 80 block of Banyan Drive (or Old Uncle Billy's Hotel) in Hilo early Friday morning (March 4th).
The initial call came in at 1:41 am Friday morning and HFD Crews from the Waiākea, Central, Haihai, and Kā'umana Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, HFD Fire Prevention Inspectors, Battalion Chief of Auxillary Services, Assistant Fire Chief - 1 (AC-1), and HPD Officers from the South Hilo Patrol and Area I - Vice Section and Criminal Investigation Section (CIS) responded to the scene located at the Old Uncle Billy's Hotel off of Banyan Drive.
Upon the arrival of emergency crews, numerous calls came into HFD Dispatch reporting smoke and flames coming out of multiple floors (the building is being described as a multi-story residential motel and hotel) of the abandoned Uncle Billy's Hotel off of Banyan Drive. It was not known at the time if any occupants were inside the structure at the time of the fire, however, it was noted that the hotel was known to have a handful of squatters occupying the property from time to time.
Once emergency crews arrived at the scene, HFD Crews immediately worked to gain control of the fire, of which heavy smoke and flames were reported to be coming out of four floors of the hotel and immediately went into a defensive mode of fire attack after determining that there were no occupants inside the structure. HFD personnel were able to have it under control at 3:00 am Friday morning and later declared the fire fully extinguished at 4:00 am Friday morning. Once extinguished, HFD Fire Prevention Inspectors along with HPD CIS Detectives arrived at the scene and began their investigation into the fire.
HFD Fire Prevention Inspectors and CIS Detectives have determined the cause of the fire to be arson, which was noted to be electrical in nature, due to possible tampering with an electrical junction box.
The fire caused an estimated $2,025,000 in damage with a total of $4,725,000 saved.
During the fire, HPD Officers temporarily closed Banyan Drive near the scene while HFD personnel worked to extinguish the fire. Banyan Drive was later reopened to traffic just after 5:00 am Friday morning.
Detectives from Hawaii Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigation Section will be continuing the arson investigation. Police ask that anyone with information regarding this incident call the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.
Arriving HPD Officers also completed a sweep of the property for safety purposes and in the course of the sweep, they took into custody 29-year-old Antanacious Nau, address not known, for unrelated offenses and warrant at the scene. Nau was wanted for an outstanding bench warrant and promotion of a dangerous drug and has not been arrested in connection with the fire.
HPD Detectives with the Area I - Vice Section continue their investigation into Nau's arrest.