CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At least nine adults and two children escaped harm yesterday in a fire that caused an estimated $195,000 in damage.
Fire alarm credited with saving Waipahu family
A working fire alarm and a retired firefighter kept a Waipahu blaze from destroying more than just the home of a large family.
The fire began early yesterday in a room at 94-115 Leowaena St. and quickly consumed the entire structure, including four family cars parked in the garage and on the street.
Tremaine Ribucan said she had gotten up to go to work at about 4:15 a.m. By 4:33 a.m., she heard her sister screaming from the living room.
"She said her room was on fire," Ribucan said. "I told my kids to get out."
Tremaine's son, 9-year-old Raiden, said, "My mom came running in the room and said, 'Get up! Get up! Fire, fire, fire!'
"I couldn't get my slippers because the fire was at the door already," Raiden Ribucan said.
Several family members were trapped in the back of the house by the flames, including Tremaine's mother, her sister and her sister's boyfriend, who is a retired federal firefighter.
"There was no way out the front," said Joseph Pires, who retired from the Manana Federal Fire Station after 28 years. "The living room and kitchen were fully involved.
"So I kicked out the air conditioner and threw my old lady out the window. ... I pushed her mother out, too."
Firefighters arrived within six minutes of the alarm and took about half an hour to bring the flames under control. Damage was estimated at $195,000 to the house and contents, plus $5,000 worth of damage to two homes on either side of the Ribucans' house.
Family members estimate that between nine and 11 adults were home at the time of the fire, as well as two children, Raiden and his 4-year-old brother, Richard Ribucan. However, more relatives live at the home and come and go on the weekends, family members said.
"I was supposed to sleep there last night," said Jillise Ribucan. "It's so sad to see this house go. ... So many memories."
The family has lived in the home for four generations.
Fire officials had not determined the cause of the fire. They also said the family is lucky that they had at least one working fire alarm in the house, which woke up one family member who alerted everyone else.
"We could easily be talking about multiple fatalities," said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Emmit Kane. "The time of the morning, speed of the fire ... We're fortunate they had a working smoke detector in the kitchen."
No family members or firefighters were injured. The American Red Cross was assisting the family.
Tremaine's mother said she lost one Chihuahua puppy, Tequila, which was tied up on the porch. It was one of a dozen she keeps at the house and raises as a business.
Tremaine's son, 4-year-old Richard Ribucan, said: "I was scared. ... My toys were on fire, too."