Police: Structure fire caused by woman killing ants with blowtorch

Police said a woman who was using a propane torch to exterminate ants may have set pallets on fire, setting off a chain reaction that led to a number of improvised, unpermitted structures being destroyed by fire Thursday evening in Puna.

Eleven Hawaii Fire Department units responded to property near 16-1590 37th Avenue in Orchidland Estates subdivision after the alarm sounded at 6:27 p.m. The first unit arrived nine minutes later and noted heavy black smoke and multiple small explosions.

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A written Fire Department statement described the residence as “multiple small improvised and unpermitted structures with abandoned vehicles, appliances, roofing material, scrap metal and animal pens.”

The statement notes access was “very difficult due to the large amount of scrap metal.” All structures on the property were destroyed.

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The fire was determined to be under control at 9 p.m. but two fire units remained on scene to monitor and extinguish “persistent hot spots.” Engine 18 reported mop-up of the scene was completed at about 10:15 a.m. Friday.

No injuries were reported and there was no dollar estimate of damage.

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