Sources:http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/150/sesq2plagueandfire and http://starbulletin.com/2000/01/24/features/story1.html
Stolen from the first source:
Honolulu greeted the 20th century under an ominous cloud as public health officials mobilized against an outbreak of bubonic plague in Chinatown.
The first cases were confirmed on Dec. 12, 1899, and officials moved quickly to establish a quarantine area in Chinatown (isolating some 7,000 residents), close schools, isolate passengers from newly arrived ships, and dispose of diseased bodies at a makeshift crematorium on Sand Island.
As the disease spread, the Board of Health — mindful of the great loss of life during a cholera outbreak five years earlier — settled on a controversial plan to burn
Chinatown structures suspected of housing the disease.
The first controlled burning took place at a Nu’uanu building on New Year’s Eve 1899, with militia evacuating 85 Chinese residents.
The program continued without serious incident through the new year. Then, on Jan. 20, 1900, a controlled burning of wooden buildings on the mauka side of Beretania Street got out of control when shifting winds sent embers aloft, setting fire to nearby buildings, including Kaumakapili Church.
According to the state Historic Preservation Division, firefighters were unable to shoot water high enough to reach the church’s burning steeple. The strong winds carried the flames even farther.
By the time the fire was extinguished, nearly all of Chinatown, roughly 38 acres, had been destroyed and more than 4,000 residents were left homeless.