Updated: September 29, 2022
The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department has launched an arson investigation into a structure fire at the former Uncle Billy’s Hotel in Hilo overnight that caused an estimated $2,025,000 in damage.
The fire was reported at 1:39 a.m. on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the vacant property, located at 87 Banyan Drive.
“The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical in nature and possibly due to tampering with an electrical junction box,” police said in an afternoon press release. The fire engulfed all four levels of the structure on the south side of the property, according to initial reports.
“There were no signs of anyone trapped in the burning structure or in need of help and no injuries were reported as a result of the incident,” according to a press release issued by Hawaiʻi Island police.
The former Uncle Billy’s Hotel and several other Banyan Drive properties are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Land Division and have been for more than 50 years.
“DLNR has been pursuing demolition and redevelopment of the property, but this effort is currently on hold due to lack of funds for demolition as well as non-DLNR related litigation,” according to information released by the department today.
During a sweep of the property, police located a 29-year-old man, and determined that he was wanted for an outstanding bench warrant and promotion of a dangerous drug. The man was arrested for the warrant and drug offense, however he had not been arrested relating to the arson, according to police. In a follow up press release, police said the man was released pending investigation on all the drug offenses and criminal trespassing, but remained in police custody on the bench warrant on Friday night.
Two other individuals were arrested for criminal trespass after being found asleep in one of the rooms on the former hotel property, according to DLNR.
Police ask that anyone with information regarding this incident to call the police department’s non-emergency line at 808-935-3311. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number 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. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.