Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Firefighter is injured in garage blaze battle

A fallen power line sends sparks and flames arcing into the surrounding area

By Gregg K. Kakesako


A firefighter was hospitalized in stable condition Friday morning after he was injured while fighting a garage fire near Laniakea Beach, a Honolulu Fire Department spokesman said.

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said firefighter Manavaroa Kamaki Worthington, 40, was "shocked by electricity" while fighting the garage fire. Worthington has been with the department for 10 years and is assigned to Engine Company 11 at Sunset Beach. He is expected to remain hospitalized for several days. Seelig said.

Jeff Wagner, who lives nearby, said he believes the fire may have started when lightning struck a transformer near a neighbor's home at about 8 a.m.

"There was an intensive flash," Wagner said.

He said following the lighting strike, one of Hawaiian Electric Co.'s power lines fell, setting a tree and bushes on fire.

"The line arced, sending more sparks and flames into the air," Wagner said. "The garage then caught on fire.

"There were firefighters in the garage. There were then a lot of sparks, a huge orange ball of an electrical fire."

Wagner said he watched as firefighters carried the injured man out of the garage.

Seelig said fire investigators are trying to determine how Worthington was injured, since the downed power line had not fallen on the garage.

Seelig said a fire company from the Sunset Beach station responded at 8 a.m. to several calls of "a fire burning at the base of a utility pole" at 61-555 Pohaku Loa Place.

Seelig said when firefighters arrived they found a downed, energized power line that was "snapping and sparking."

"It was raining, and the hedge near the pole was smoldering," Seelig said.

Fifteen minutes later, firefighters were told that smoke was coming from the garage, and they attempted to extinguish the fire. That was when Worthington was injured.

Seelig said the fire was confined to the garage. The loss was estimated at $210,000 — $180,000 to the structure and $30,000 to the residents' belongings, which included a car and a motorbike.

A cottage and the main house on the beach were not damaged.

Darren Pai, Hawaiian Electric spokesman, said 800 customers in the area were without power because "the circuit had to be de-energized" to ensure the firefighters' safety.

Pai also said HECO is investigating whether the downed utility line was caused by a lightning strike.

Police closed Kamehameha Highway adjacent to Laniakea Beach for nearly two hours because of the garage fire and possible live wires on the road.

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