PAHOA, Hawaii – The community stood watching fire officials work the wreckage of the popular Luquin’s Restaurant and Akebono Theater in Pahoa on Monday, after a midnight blaze gutted the popular village landmarks.
Pepper Walker, a long-time server at Luquin’s, hugged fellow employees and residents whom she served over the years.
“When you see families grow up, and you see people coming together” Walker said as she reminisced about the job she loved, “and right now you can see people are coming together again. There’s that love and aloha.”
UPDATE (8:20 p.m.) – The cause of the fire is under investigation, Hawaii County Fire officials say. The fire involved 3 commercial properties, “including historic Akebono theater built in 1926, a smaller commercial building from 1938 and a large multi-use residential and commercial building housing Luquin’s restaurant, built in 1907,” a dispatch reported.
“Its a really important part of the community,” said musician Carl Green, who once played his saxophone on the Akebono stage with Medeski Martin and Wood. “Its like a unifying point in our community that we really just can’t let go.”
Green credits Salvador Luquin Jimenez and his family for the restoration of the Akebono years ago.
A shaken Rene Siracusa was handing out tangerines to the police and firefighters working at the scene.
“People are crying,” Siracusa said. “It’s hit this community really hard. I didn’t see people crying when the lava was coming down. But we just lost the heart of our community, almost.”
The Hawaii Police Department reports Pahoa Village Road is scheduled to remain closed between Kauhale Road, or the Community Center Road, and the area fronting Kaleo’s Restaurant through tomorrow afternoon.
“Area residents should expect to smell smoke tonight,” a civil defense message stated. “Hawaii Fire Department will remain on scene through the night to monitor any flare ups that may occur.”