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Hilo Walmart fire under investigation

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

UPDATED, 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31

Police are investigating a suspicious fire Tuesday (Dec. 30) at a store on Makaala Street in Hilo.

Responding to a 4:24 p.m. call from an employee at Walmart, Fire Department and police personnel learned that employees had extinguished a burning rack of clothing. The entire store was evacuated due to smoke.

The fire was confined to the rack of clothing. The estimated total damages are being assessed.

There were no injuries as a result of the fire.

On Wednesday (Dec. 31) detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section returned to the store and continued the investigation, which is classified as a first-degree arson and a third-degree attempted theft.

They recovered and are examining video surveillance footage.

Police are seeking two persons who were seen in the store prior to the fire. One is described as possibly a local Caucasian man, about 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 with a heavy build and a light tan complexion. He was last seen wearing a red baseball cap, red shorts and a red shirt with a “Heart and Huntington” logo on the upper left chest area.

The second person is described as a Caucasian man similar in build to the first man but heavier. He was wearing a gray T-shirt, light-color shorts and a red baseball cap.

Anyone who knows the identity of either suspect or who was in the store from around 4:15 p.m. to the time the fire was started is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-331 or contact Detective Wendall Carter at 961-2378 wcarter@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID.

A fire at the Hilo Walmart location on Makaala St. remains under investigation, after the blaze shuttered the store for hours Tuesday.

Crews arrived at 4:27 p.m. Tuesday to find employees and customers had evacuated the building. The fire started in the men’s clothing section, but was extinguished by an employee, whose “quick thinking and reaction to the fire minimized the property loss,” according to the fire department.

Damage was contained to a single free-standing clothes rack and its contents.

Crew removed smoke with exhaust fans using a combination of “horizontal, mechanical, and natural ventilation.”

Walmart has reopened.

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