Deadly house fire in Ewa Beach determined to be deliberately set

Investigators with the Honolulu Fire Department say a deadly fire on Jan. 7 at a Pololia Street residence in Ewa Beach was deliberately set.

The fire, which resulted in one fatality, started in the victim’s bedroom. The Honolulu medical examiner identified him as Neil Gibbs, 24.

The two-alarm house fire broke out just after 4:30 a.m. and was brought under control at 4:58 a.m.

Four other people in the house made it out safely, but firefighters said Gibbs was found dead in a second-story bedroom. The family that escaped had desperately tried to reach him, but couldn’t because of the intense heat.

Witness Kaleihua Dowsett lives near the house and woke up to sirens. Flames were shooting out from an upstairs window.

Fire officials say a smoke alarm alerted the family inside.

“There were two ladies on the driveway and one of them was just very erratic,” she said, “you know, out of her mind, and the other was really trying to console her.”

Fire Capt. James Todd said “as our company was going to the scene, we got information that there might be somebody trapped inside.

“The door was locked and they had a hard time getting in,” he said. “They were trying to notify the person, but I guess the flames got too intense, so they had to evacuate.”

We’re told neighbors reported hearing a loud boom around the time of the fire.

“The fire originated in the second floor of the structure, but right now, the fire investigator was determining the cause,” Todd said.

“We’re a close little community here,” Dowsett said, “so having that happen on our quiet little street, I think it kind of just shakes us all up a little.”

Family and friends gathered outside the now-burnt home. We briefly spoke with loved ones who told us the victim leaves behind a young daughter.

Fire damages were estimated at $170,000 to the structure and $30,000 to the contents.

Nearby homes were not damaged and no other injuries were reported.

This case has been transferred to the Honolulu Police Department.

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