Residents complain that fire crews took too long
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 21, 2010
Firefighters extinguished an early morning fire yesterday that destroyed two units in an apartment building on Wilder Avenue.
About 35 firefighters responded to the 2:15 a.m. call at 1190 Wilder Ave. and found an apartment unit engulfed in flames. The fire was brought under control by 2:29 a.m. and extinguished shortly after 3 a.m., said Honolulu Fire Capt. Earle Kealoha.
Some residents of the building, the Makikian, said the Fire Department took too long to respond -- more than 15 minutes according to some -- especially since a station is across the street.
Elizabeth House, a first-floor resident, said she watched someone from the building walk to the station and knock on the door because firefighters didn't respond right away.
"Once they got here, they did a great job, but I think they were a little slow in getting here," she said.
Kealoha said the nine companies that responded to the two-alarm blaze arrived within normal time frames according to the department's standards of "best practices."
The first companies were dispatched at 2:16 a.m., one minute after the call, and were on scene at 2:19 a.m., Kealoha said. The Makiki company on Wilder Avenue was the first to respond.
He said the stress and emotion of the situation may have made residents susceptible to "elevated levels of concern and uncertainty."
Don Cresciman noticed the fire after he heard someone yelling, then heard popping and crackling.
"It was about 12 to 15 minutes before their fire truck came out," he said. "They must have heard it."
Vanessa Oranday, who lived above the unit where the fire began, was at work when she got a call about the fire.
"I figured since the Fire Department is right here, it couldn't be that bad," she said with her Bible and diary in one hand -- the only things she recovered from the ashes of her unit.
Before everything started, House was watching the World Cup when a man started yelling. She called firefighters, then went outside and saw smoke. But she returned to her unit thinking firefighters would have it under control.
After a few minutes, she realized she had to leave because the smoke was getting too strong and left her two cats behind in the rush to flee.
Flames shot out about 5 to 6 feet from the apartment's wooden jalousies, she said.
A resident in a unit above the fire was treated for smoke inhalation after he tried to wake up a neighbor and extinguish the fire with a garden house, Kealoha said. No one else was injured.
The fire ignited wooden louvers of the apartment above and destroyed that unit. Five of the 16 units in the building were damaged by water. After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters spent two hours hosing down soot and mopping up water in neighboring apartments.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and damage to the structure has not been determined.
Star-Advertiser reporter Michael Tsai contributed to this report.