HONOLULU (KHON2) — Preschool children are without classrooms and a church is picking up the pieces after a blaze burned structures in Salt Lake.
The suspicious fire is being turned over to the Honolulu Police Department as an arson investigation.
At 3:01 pm Sunday, a fire at St. Philomena Parish was called into the Honolulu Fire Department. The area of the church that was consumed with flames is a preschool for 3 to 5-year-olds.
Six classrooms were burned in the fire, which HFD investigators determined was intentionally set.
“I could not think who would do to a church where people come to worship and where we always encourage people to love and forgive,” St, Philomena Father Paul Li said. “The little keiki come here to learn how to be cared for and loved for. Who would do such things to jeopardize our kids?”
Father Paul lives about 100 feet away from the buildings that caught fire.
“I saw the heavy smoke come from the flame in the attic of the classroom,” Li said.
He says a good samaritan called the fire department, who only took four minutes to arrive.
“It’s so shocking what I saw what I heard what damage they could cause,” Li said. “I was concerned for our children and we’re coming back on Wednesday. Still, it’s not an easy feeling for me now.”
Fortunately, nobody was in the classrooms when they caught fire. The buildings, which were constructed in the 1940s, appear to be salvageable.
“Whatever can help we are open to hoping the good lord will touch a generous heart to help rebuild because we want to do so as quick as possible,” Father Paul said. “We have 100 kids in our school and need a safe and comfortable facility for them to enjoy their school day.”
A storage shed and its contents were also burned.
“Our storage room contains our canned goods for feeding for the needs of our homeless, which we serve once a month to deliver can goods to give to whoever needs food,” Li said.
HFD estimates $207,000 worth of damage in the blaze.
“We will rebuild. I know the structure can be destroyed, our hope will never be,” Li said.
St. Philomena Parish is looking for any assistance they can get to help rebuild. They can be reached here if you’d like to offer assistance.