Early morning fire destroys kitchen, cafeteria at Kalaupapa settlement

Local News

A building that served as a kitchen and cafeteria at the Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai is no more.

According to a Dept. of Health spokesperson, the fire happened a little after 2 a.m. Tuesday and completely engulfed the structure, burning it to the ground.

Video taken by a resident shows the building on fire before it was put out around 3:30 a.m.

Approximately 15 volunteers consisting of park rangers, state personnel and residents helped fight the fire and prevent it from spreading. The fire was brought under control around 4:30 a.m.

The island has a fire truck, but there is no department staffed by professional firefighters.

“By the time we arrived, the flames were shooting through the windows, and at the peak of the fire, they were at least one or two times the size of the building, so it was quite, it was quite the fire,” said Paul Hosten, chief of natural resource management at Kalaupapa. “The building was old. The wood was old and dry, and I think that’s part of the reason why the building caught fire and burnt as fiercely as it did.”

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Photos taken later in the day show the aftermath — most everything destroyed and covered in ash, with smoke still visible in some areas.

“I do know that there are a lot of memories associated with that building, where people gathered for their meals, and I know that just for that reason the building will be very badly missed by many,” he said.

The Hawaii Department of Health says 44 employees who live and work at Kalaupapa, as well as settlement residents, used the facility. Kitchen workers will be temporarily working in another building’s kitchen.

A storeroom stocked with food supplies that was connected to the building was not damaged. There was some concern as supplies for the settlement was last barged in back in August 2015.

Estimated cost of damage from the fire is still being determined.

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