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10 displaced, firefighter injured in McCully blaze

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  • Leila Fujimori /
    Smoke rose above the charred rooftop
    Miki Sen, 8, left, comforted her aunt, Carrie Koya-nagi, whose Waiola Street apartment was damaged by fire Saturday night. Miki had planned to spend the night with her aunt and grandmother.

Ten people living in a five-unit apartment building in McCully were displaced, and a firefighter was injured, by a fire that quickly ravaged the wooden structure Saturday night.

The fire started in a downstairs unit, according to witnesses.

Capt. James Todd said 32 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire, which was reported at 6:14 p.m. at 1737 Waiola St. and brought under control at 6:56 p.m. Three units were damaged, two heavily.

A firefighter was taken with moderate injuries to a hospital, Todd said.

No damage estimate or cause was available Saturday night. The Red Cross was assisting, Todd said.

Neighbor Lai Xu, 29, said he was outside gardening when he smelled smoke and saw wisps of it seeping out of a downstairs apartment.

He began pounding on the sides of the house and tried to get the elderly and small children out.

He and his girlfriend’s brother kicked in the door of one apartment where an older woman lived, but the fire grew too large to handle.

"We were almost completely engulfed in smoke," he said. "Everybody was just really surprised at how fast it happened."

Xu said he helped one elderly woman who was "just standing in the smoke at the door," and also saw several young children and "scooped them out."

His girlfriend’s father, 62, who was visiting from Aiea, said they may have made the mistake of breaking the door down because within minutes the whole house was on fire.

Eight-year-old Miki Sen was going to spend the night with her grandmother and aunt, who live in an upstairs apartment.

Instead she was outside, offering words of encouragement to her 44-year-old aunt, Carrie Koyanagi, and holding her hand.

"At least Grandma’s alive, so we can still bake together," Miki told Koyanagi.

Koyanagi was in tears thinking of her entire life’s possessions, including precious photos, that had gone up in flames.

Koyanagi, who lives with her 82-year-old mother, Emma Koyanagi, said she had just gotten home with dinner when someone yelled "fire," and she had to help her mother and niece out.

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