Displaced residents of Pearl City fire begin recovery
Residents of two Pearl City houses have started dealing with the aftermath of losing nearly all their belongings in a fire late Saturday night.
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Residents of two Pearl City houses have started dealing with the aftermath of losing nearly all their belongings
in a fire late Saturday night.
The fire, which displaced 18 people, was extinguished Sunday at 12:43 a.m., about 2-1/2 hours after the Honolulu Fire Department responded.
Some of the residents
Sunday afternoon were looking through their destroyed homes and recovered a few things, including photo albums and clothes.
Many of the residents, their friends and family were outside under pitched tents. The houses were blocked off by yellow “Fire Line Do Not Cross” tape but still accessed by those who lived in them.
Joyce Mimura and her husband, Eric, lived in their one-story house for 48 years. Joyce was able to recover a few items including a scrapbook. The Mimuras’ family members came to help go through the debris.
For the most part, the
contents of both the houses were destroyed. Elijah Koholua, who lived in the multi-unit building next door to the Mimuras’, started a GoFundMe page titled “House burnt down” to raise money to help rebuild his family’s home.
The Honolulu Fire Department determined that the fire was started accidentally by a faulty air conditioning unit in Koholua’s house at 2158 Hoohai St.; it then spread to the Mimuras’ house at 2152 Hoohai St.
Koholua said he smelled smoke Saturday night, which he followed to his mother’s room. He said he saw orange flames from under her door, so he forced it open.
“When I pushed it open, the flame blew out, and the oxygen started feeding the fire,” Koholua said.
He said flames immediately shot above his head and began spreading, so he started evacuating everyone inside.
Koholua said his grandparents built their house decades ago. It consists of four units: Three are lined up when looking at the property from the street, and one is stacked on top of the unit
farthest from the street. It was a multigenerational household that was home to 16 people, or four families.
The ground unit farthest from the street was mostly untouched, even though it was only about a foot away from the air conditioning unit that started the fire. Koholua said it could have been because that unit is made of thick concrete.
Randy Kujiuji lived in that unit. His son, his girlfriend and her son were among those who also lived there.
During the fire, Koholua and Kujiuji described a frantic dash to evacuate everyone, which they were eventually able to do unharmed.
“Everybody was good,” Kujiuji said. “No inhalation or nothing.”
However, the top unit in the back, where his grandparents lived, wasn’t made
of concrete and was severely damaged. Koholua believes the fire may have climbed the stairs that led to it.
The Fire Department estimated $1.2 million in structural damage and $50,000 in damage to contents inside the two-story residence, and $535,000 in structural damage and $35,000 in damage
to contents in the one-story residence, totaling nearly $1.8 million in damage.
Many of the things in the house might be restored thanks to help from donations and the Red Cross, but many others won’t be.
“The house is replaceable but the memories are not,” Koholua said.
After walking through most of the property late Sunday afternoon, Koholua said a lot of his family is still “paranoid” about what happened. But for him it’s time to act.
“It’s time to just move on and hopefully pray for the best,” he said.