A struggling family of nine lost their home on Thanksgiving to a pre-dawn candle fire in Pearl City.
Neighbors said the family had not had electricity for several months.
Next-door neighbor John Nguyen said utility workers took the electric meter several months ago. The family also did not have running water and used water from plastic jugs, he said.
The fire started at about 5:35 a.m. in an upstairs bedroom of the two-story wooden home at 937 4th St., firefighters said. About 20 firefighters arrived five minutes later and saw flames coming out of the four-bedroom home.
Seven people home at the time escaped safely, said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig. Four adults and five children lived at the home, which had heavy to moderate damage on the second floor, he said.
James Alderman, who lives nearby, was alerted to the fire by the screams of a neighbor. He looked out the window and saw flames billowing out the second-story window and ran over get to everyone out.
He went inside the burning home and found two teenage boys upstairs trying to fight the raging flames with water from plastic jugs.
"Get out! Get out! Leave ’em, leave ’em!" he recalled shouting. "Come out, ’cause you guys cannot do nothing."
Other neighbors tried to spray the home with garden hoses before firefighters arrived and quickly extinguished the blaze.
"They were fantastic," Alderman said of the firefighters. "They came, they put it out. And after that they was going over it."
Firefighters brought the fire under control in about 15 minutes and extinguished it at 6:47 a.m., said HFD Capt. Earle Kealoha.
Fire investigators determined a candle started the blaze. Damage is estimated at $250,000 to the home and $20,000 to the contents, Kealoha said.
Kealoha noted that the home had smoke detectors that reportedly did not go off. He said all smoke detectors in a home should be tested monthly to ensure they are working, and smoke detector batteries should be replaced every year.
The Red Cross said it is helping the family.
Meanwhile, firefighters were still searching for the cause of a fire that damaged a unit Wednesday evening at the Marco Polo condominium on Kapiolani Boulevard. That fire was put out in about 20 minutes but caused about $225,000 in damage.