HAWAII RINGS IN THE NEW YEAR WITH FLARE
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
James Hashimoto enjoyed the fireworks last night in Palolo Valley. More than 60 minor fires were reported on Oahu last night.
New year unites isle families
Fireworks spur more than 160 minor fires on Oahu alone
FOR THE Khanthavong family, New Year's Eve is just about the only time everyone can get together.
"It's a family reunion!" Davis Khanthavong shouted last night, as he watched his cousins, nieces and nephews lighting sparklers outside their Palolo Valley Homes apartment. "The rest of the year, everyone's busy and working. On New Year's, we celebrate."
The gathering was one of thousands across the islands yesterday as residents rang in 2006 with fireworks, filling neighborhoods with heavy smoke -- which hardly moved in the light winds -- and spurring more than 60 minor fires on Oahu. Firefighters put out one fireworks-related blaze at an abandoned building in Kahuku and a second in the garage of a Kalihi home*.
In all, by about 9:30 p.m., firefighters had also responded to 44 brush fires, four Dumpster fires and five other fires last night, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Kenison Tejada said.
It's unclear how many of those incidents were fireworks-related.
Last New Year's Eve, Honolulu firefighters reported 12 fireworks-related fires. But Tejada said there may have been more blazes caused by fireworks last year that were not immediately reported.
He also said it was not "overly" busy last night.
As of Thursday, about 10,500 fireworks permits had been sold on Oahu, city spokesman Bill Brennan said. A total count was not available yesterday.
Last year, a record 12,662 permits were issued.
The light winds, at about 10 mph last night, caused concern for some health officials, who said smoke hanging in the air could endanger those with respiratory problems or allergies. The state Health Department was to monitor air quality last night.
Even before sunset yesterday, thin plumes of smoke were rising from spots in Palolo, where a few families were lighting fireworks before the 9 p.m. start time. Many had also gotten their hands on illegal aerials.
As the skies grew dark and the new year neared, screeching, booming fireworks emitting fountains of light could be seen on almost every side street and driveway. Parents sat on their lawns and lanais to watch children play with sparklers, while older kids lit strands of firecrackers.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Doan Pham, left, and Bang Nguyen lit off a long string of firecrackers held by a long fruit-picker pole last night.
More than 20 children gathered at the Hashimoto home yesterday for New Year's celebrations, which included setting off more than $800 in fireworks. They started small, playing first with a pasta strainer full of "hot pops."
"Without fireworks, it wouldn't be fun," said James Hashimoto, who has seven children -- ages 6 to 19 -- and hosted the potluck at his Palolo home. "We get to do this every year. We celebrate with fireworks."
Across the street, Doan Pham and his cousin delighted an audience of about 10 children when they put a string of firecrackers atop a 15-foot-tall fruit-picker. The firecrackers popped up and up, ending with a finale at the top of the pole, which Pham held upright over from his front-door steps.
Pham, who is Vietnamese, said he and his family will repeat the festivities on Chinese New Year. "We celebrate both of them," he said with a laugh.
Nearly 50 people gathered at the Kawai residence in Palolo last night to eat traditional New Year's fare -- including sashimi, a whole suckling pig and mochi -- and set off more than $4,000 in fireworks.
The pyrotechnics lined a side wall of the Kawais' garage and family members took turns lighting their favorites. "It's just about family," said Kevin Kawai after setting off an impressive batch of fireworks. "This is how we celebrate, with all the family."
Thousands also flocked to Aloha Tower and Waikiki last night to watch Oahu's two professional fireworks shows.
Rick Egged, of the Waikiki Improvement Association, said the 10-minute Waikiki show cost almost $50,000. He estimated that nearly 100,000 people watched the fireworks, including about 10,000 people on Waikiki Beach and thousands more watching from their hotel or apartment balconies.
"In Waikiki, fireworks are illegal," he said. "This is their fireworks show."
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
» There were only two fireworks-related structure fires on Oahu on New Year's Eve, one at an abandoned building in Kahuku and a second in the garage of a Kalihi home. A Page A1 article Sunday incorrectly reported that there were three.