LIHUE – The fire at Coco Palms Resort that broke out Friday was mostly extinguished Saturday, Kauai County officials said.
Fire inspectors are investigating the cause of the blaze. The main lobby and adjoining offices of the resort were totally destroyed and the breezeway of a connecting building was badly burned in the fire that broke out shortly before noon and was mostly contained by 2:15 p.m. that same day. No estimate of the damages is currently available, the county said.
Twenty-four firefighters battled the fire, including three recalled firefighters who spent the night at the resort in case of flare-ups. No injuries were reported.
The resort is owned by Prudential Insurance. Coco Palms Hui, LLC has plans to rebuild it. Coco Palms Hui, LLC Principal Tyler Greene has estimated it will cost about $125 million to rebuild, which includes purchasing the land from Prudential Insurance. It was badly damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and has stood vacant and deteriorated since.
The fire erupted one day after a Facebook post that appeared on the resort’s page called for exactly that.
“Best thing we could do is get 1,000 gallons of gas and burn it down,” the post written by Kapaa resident Kimo Rosen read.
Rosen said he wrote the post on someone else’s Facebook page and said the timing was eerie.
“It was coincidence and eerie timing that the Coco Palms would go up in flames after making the comment,” Rosen wrote in a statement. “I have learned from my mistake and will not be commenting anymore on any Facebook pages besides those I know personally. I am thinking of not commenting and just sticking to the “Like” button. I am truly sorry, especially to (Coco Palms care taker) Mr. Bob Jasper. I would never consider such an evil act as arson. The irony is I hate fireworks and anything that has to do with fire. I consider myself an honest man and could never live with myself if I was ever part of anything so destructive.”
Rosen was a contributing columnist for The Garden Island. His column has been suspended in light of recent events.
“I have learned and hope to pass this on to everyone, that words are powerful and should be measured carefully,” he wrote. “Mahalo for giving me this space to express myself. Thank you TGI and my apologies to the Mr. Bob Jasper and the Coco Palms community.”
Motorists first spotted smoke rising from the property on Kuhio Highway across from Wailua Bay.
A visiting family alerted the authorities to the blaze.
The wire fencing surrounding the decrepit structures were erected as a result of the hotel being non-operational for over two decades. Fire and police personnel cut the fencing around the building to allow closer access for the fire trucks as they battled the blaze in humid, 86 degree weather.
Two large excavators were brought to the resort Saturday to tear down the main lobby and adjoining offices and move the rubble around.
Jasper said it was the second time a blaze has broken out at the historic site in the last 5 years.
A late night fire in 2009 occurred in the retail space which used to be the beauty shop on the second floor of the building. Because there wasn’t electricity on the property, arson was suspected.
“It apparently was caused by a person,” he told The Garden Island. “It was never resolved.”