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Blaze in apartment closes roads

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    Firefighters extinguished a blaze yesterday at a wooden building on Kahakai Drive.

A fire forced several road closures yesterday and displace a couple who lived in a cluttered unit near the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

The fire started at about 12:50 p.m. on the first floor of an old two-story wooden building at 1926 Kahakai Drive. It caused about $225,000 in damage, most of it in the middle unit, where the fire began, said Honolulu fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

All nine other units sustained some smoke damage, and some had heat or water damage.

Lynn Oakley, who lives across the street, said brown smoke filled the air until she couldn’t see a person standing across the street.

"The smell was awful," she said.

Michael Redwolfshane, 67, tried to get through the front door of his unit, which was on fire, but the heat pushed him away. He went around to the back and dumped about three buckets of water on the fire through the window before the heat grew too strong.

The "excessive accumulation of stuff" hampered responding firefighters, but they were able to bring the fire under control by 1:28 p.m., Seelig said.

Miscellaneous items filled the unit and reached to the ceiling, and pathways had been cleared.

Firefighters tried to push their way through the front door, but it was blocked and they had to enter sideways, Seelig said. Once inside, firefighters had to fight their way through the obstacles to find the "seat" of the fire.

Firefighters forced their way into a unit next door to prevent the fire from spreading, and rescued a cat from a unit above.

Seelig warned that hoarding items could be a fire hazard or hamper the work of emergency responders.

Firefighters spent hours slowly pulling items from the home so a fire investigator could locate the cause. A fire investigator could not determine the cause of the fire, but said it started in the bedroom, Seelig said.

The Red Cross helped the couple with accommodations. Residents of the nine other apartments would probably need other accommodations for the night because of the smoke odor, Seelig said.

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