HONOLULU (KHON2) — Another fire at Sunset Memorial Park has nearby residents pleading for help. The Pearl City cemetery has been plagued with problems for about a decade, prompting lawmakers to once again explore the issue of having the state take over.
This is at least the third fire that’s happened in the cemetery. There was one last year in the same spot. The Honolulu Fire Department said crews were sent out to put out two other fires at the cemetery earlier this month. The latest was Sunday evening. Area residents said flames were up as high as the utility poles.
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“It was really high,” said area resident Jeff Kim. “It was just shooting up. I mean there was an explosion, and it just shot up one time.”
Sunset Memorial has been plagued with sunken graves, stolen urns, and overgrown grass. Volunteers have stepped up to help. But nobody has been able to move the homeless who have set up camp here for several years.
“When are they going to do something about it?” said area resident Guadalupe Kim. “Because the next fire will probably take us, reach to us.”
State Rep. Gregg Takayama said the situation seems to have gotten out of control mainly because the owners of the cemetery died years ago.
“Which means that we cannot get persons who are living there without permission to get them kicked out,” he said. “I think clearly the time has come for the state to intervene.”
The state proposed taking over Sunset Memorial a few years back which never happened. He said, this time will be different.
“The bottom line is that the state would be responsible for kicking off people who do not belong there, and that’s the bottom line problem,” said Takayama.
He said he’s looking at having DLNR take over the maintenance.
“We’re studying the matter,” said Takayama. “But in the past the Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken over maintenance of several smaller abandoned cemeteries, and that’s probably what we’ll look for.”
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It will take some work though. A spokesperson for DLNR sent a statement saying, it “has been involved in enforcement actions for damage to burial sites.” But it “has not been involved in the caretaking of cemeteries.”