- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - A historic theater building in Hawaii has been gutted by a fire.

The blaze started in an old wooden building just before midnight Sunday and moved through Pahoa early Monday, destroying several businesses and at least four apartment units, according to the Hawaii County Fire Department.

It ripped through the Akebono Theater, which was built in 1919 and is one of the oldest theaters in the islands. It was a staple in the community and held concerts, plays, comedy shows and public gatherings.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents Pahoa, told KHON-TV that the theater was the “heart of Pahoa town.”

“We spent months worrying about the lava flow and whether the town would be destroyed. We dodged a bullet on that,” said Ruderman. “Pele turned around and spared our beloved town. Yet this fire happened for totally unrelated reasons and destroyed two of the most important buildings in town.”

More than a century ago, Pahoa was lumber mill town and Akebono Theater served as a movie house and concert hall.

“It’s definitely the end of an era,” Sarah Williams of the Pahoa Village Museum said to KHON. “Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a new one, as well. The concern is that some kind of big business will get a foothold in the town. Hopefully, it stays a community-based establishment.”

The fire also damaged adjoining businesses the La Hiki Ola Kava Bar and Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant.

No one was injured. The American Red Cross of Hawaii is helping families left homeless by the blaze.

It’s not clear what caused the fire.

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