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Update: Fire Damage at Uncle Billy’s Hotel in Hilo Estimated at $2M

By Tom Hasslinger
March 4, 2022, 8:56 AM HST
* Updated March 4, 7:16 PM
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A fire that broke out early Friday morning at the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel caused an estimated $2 million in damages, according to the Hawai‘i Police Department.

HPD confirmed that the fire, first reported by Hawai‘i News Now, broke out around 1:30 a.m.

HPD stated in a news release that it received a report from staff member at a Hilo hotel of a possible fire at a nearby vacant property located at 87 Banyan Drive.

When police and fire personnel arrived, they determined the south side of the structure was engulfed in flames on all four levels.

Police ensured that neighboring structures and hotels were aware of the fire. 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, the department stated.

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Banyan Drive was temporarily closed and traffic was diverted. The road was reopened shortly after 5 a.m.

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The fire was contained to the structure with damage estimated at $2,025,000.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation at this time. The Fire Department stated in a news release that there have been reports that squatters frequent the structure and evidence at the scene supported that claim.

The Department of Lands and Natural Resources stated in a news release Friday afternoon that the former Uncle Billy’s Hotel and several other Banyan Drive properties are under the jurisdiction of the DLNR 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.

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“An interim security contract at the property lapsed at the end of December 2021,” DLNR stated.  “DLNR continues to explore cost-effective options for further securing the property.”

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 808-961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. 

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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