Goodness, gracious, great halls of fire.
Trouble in paradise has come to Honolulu, Hawaii in the form of a rash of arsons. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, three separate Waikiki Beach hotels were set on fire. All of the fires started in hallways on floors with guests nearby and the subject is still at large. It’s not exactly what you want to read about on the eve of your impending tropical vacation. Should you cancel your trip? Buy fire insurance? Keep an eye out for a man in a blue baseball cap and a white oxford shirt? Well, “no,” “yes,” and “maybe.” We’ve looked into the story and we have some travel advice for you down below.
What Happened, Exactly?
Here’s what we know so far: On Sunday, August 4, the first fire was set at the Alohilani Resort causing several thousand dollars worth of damage. The next day, the 25-story Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger reported a fire near their 14th-floor storage room, and on Tuesday, the Hilton Hawaiian Grand Waikikian reported a third blaze on their 28th floor.
Just how bad were the fires? We reached out to Nigel Glennie, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Hilton and he told us that the Hilton Hawaiian Grand Waikikian’s fire was pretty small, quickly extinguished by the staff and the resulting damage was pretty minor. Says Nigel, “you’d have to walk right up to the location to even see marks on the wall.” Officials from the Alohilani resort wanted to clarify that there were two small fires in the Seascape Tower, guests were evacuated but they’re “happy to report that everyone is safe and no injuries occurred.
No one was harmed in any of the fires and they were quickly contained. The scarier aspect of these fires is that they were set on purpose, and police have identified a “person of interest” who was at each of the three Waikiki hotels where the fires have happened.
While there’s nothing you can do to make your accommodations more flame retardant, there are things that you can do to keep yourself safe.
What Should I Do?
If you’re currently in Hawaii, you can keep an eye out for this man, who was wearing a blue baseball cap and a white oxford shirt in the surveillance photo CrimeStoppers obtained. Has he probably changed clothes since then? Sure. But if you spot someone who looks like him, CrimeStoppers would like you to call 955-8300. According to recent reports, he’s still at large. On Wednesday evening, the same man was spotted breaking into an apartment building where he pulled the fire alarm (but didn’t set a fire) and then covered up the camera.
What’s more likely than you stumbling across an unnamed arsonist is you hearing a fire alarm during a hotel stay. And while there’s nothing you can do to make your accommodations more flame retardant, there are things that you can do to keep yourself safer than the victims of Tuesday’s fire who had “jewelry, designer bags, and electronics” stolen from their rooms after they had evacuated.
First things first, if there’s a fire, don’t be like Australian traveler Margaret McGuffin who told Hawaii News Now that “I usually hear the alarm go off in the hotel and think ‘eh, someone’s burnt the toast’ and tend to ignore it.” You should always evacuate a hotel when the alarm sounds, even if you do not see or smell any physical signs of a fire. By the time you do, it could be too late to evacuate safely.
Prepare yourself ahead of time for a worst-case scenario like hotel arson by keeping your valuables in the hotels safe—even if you’re in the room. That way, if you have to leave suddenly, no one will be able to nab your Rolex off of your nightstand while you’re gone. Which, by the way, seems to be what the suspect had in mind. After he pulled the fire alarm in the residential building, he was spotted going floor to floor looking for open doors. When he found one, he stole watches and a laptop.
And, just in case the worst happens and your belongings are stolen or fire damaged, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance before you leave town. They’ll reimburse you for any property that doesn’t make it back home with you. In the meantime, you should know that there’s no reason to cancel your vacation. All of the affected hotels are still open for business.