HONOLULU(KHON2)–The State faces more challenges clearing a mass dumping ground and hot spot for illegal activity in Wahiawa.
A week ago dozens of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies conducted a sweep of the area off of Kamehameha Highway between Kamanui Road and Whitmore Avenue.
A large plot of land several hundred yards away from the highway was arranged like a mini community complete with living quarters inside Matson-style containers, generators, washer-dryers and a shower.
Thursday the smell of burnt rubber hung in the air after a fire, police said they believe was intentionally set, ripped through the area Sunday.
Melted glass and plastics, dozens of burnt vehicles, piles of black ash and mounds of black rubbish remain.
In a statement, Ken Nakamoto the Agribusiness Development Corporation Project manager, said:
“The fire was isolated to 1-2 acres…We suspect it was an arsonist who entered the property on foot.”
“The fire setting its definitely related to this sweep and enforcement and the perception of these vehicles maybe as evidence or something of that nature,” Representative Amy Perusso said.
Aunty Tino, who lives nearby said it isn’t the first time.
“There’s been a lot of fires. It wasn’t just that one. Over a year, a couple months in regards to fires they were started in that area. Of course it’s scary,” Tino said.
Nakamoto said it will cost roughly $10,000 to clean up the mess caused by the fire.
To make things worse Nakamoto said they:
“Received reports that individuals are entering on foot through remote areas of the 230 acre parcel. They are mainly looking for anything of value that they can salvage”.
“It’s also my understanding that people are continuing to try to go back onto the property to try to get back cars that may still be running,” Perruso explained.
They’re avoiding the guarded dirt roads, pulling vehicles out over the berms along Kamehameha Highway.
Nakamoto said the weather creates other problems–turning the dirt road into a mud bog. So they’re fixing them to improve access.
Pink tags mark cars that can easily be towed out.
Other vehicles that laying on their side or that are upside down will likely take more effort to remove according to Nakamoto.
Out of 20 vehicles they’ve recovered only one car and one moped were reported stolen so far, according to police.
Special duty police officers are guarding the area 24/7.
Perruso said she’s not surprised people keep going back.
“I think it’s understandable that for some period of time we’re going to have some struggles around that. It’s not a once and done situation.”
Nakamoto said the ADC plans to have a security company take over for police on March 11. The ADC plans to keep the area secure until they are able to find farmers to lease the land for agricultural purposes.
Police said only three people have been arrested so far. Those arrests were made on February 27, the day of the sweep. Two were arrested for unauthorized entry into a motor vehilce and the third for warrants.
The ADC is currently building a reservoir that Nakamoto said can hold up to 10 million gallons of water and will provide water to the 230 acre parcel of property and a second portion of state owned land across Kamehameha Highway roughly 1200 acres.