DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
An early morning fire in Makakilo left the Wagner family homeless yesterday. Fire investigators looked for the cause in the charred debris.
Suspicious fire leaves Makakilo family homeless
Fifteen-year-old Jenna Wagner of Makakilo woke up yesterday to popping noises and flames shooting from the carport before escaping with three generations of her family from a fire that investigators believe was deliberately set.
Wagner should have been enjoying her last day at Kapolei High School, saying goodbye to her friends for the summer yesterday. Instead she, her mother, her sisters and her 2-year-old niece gathered outside the charred shell of their family home, having lost everything but their lives.
"Everything's burned," Wagner said, pointing out her bedroom, whose front wall had vanished in the inferno, revealing the blackened frame of her twin bed. Her room overlooked the carport, where the fire started.
There was no sign of the carport, just three burned vehicles, including the metal hulk of a Jeep, its rubber tires and upholstery incinerated.
"It was like 4 o'clock, and I heard popping in the garage," Wagner said. "There was flames on the roof of the garage. I woke up my mom. We got everyone out. "
Renee Wagner and her daughters, Lisa, 19, Michelle, 17, Rachel, 11, and Jenna, along with granddaughter Angel Martinez, 2, were asleep when the fire broke out. It jumped from the carport to a gazebo and on to the main home, setting off a smoke detector. With the help of neighbors, the family managed to get away before their home was engulfed.
"We were watching the whole thing," Michelle Wagner said. "I was just screaming, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!' I was hoping my cat was OK because he was my best friend." The Wagners' two cats and their dog also escaped unharmed.
Fire investigator Warren Iseke said the fire "looks like it was intentionally set." Detective Nani Hee of the Honolulu Police Department said yesterday afternoon that the case was being investigated, and no suspect had yet been identified.
The Wagners have lived in the three-bedroom, single-story house at 97-738 Nohopaa St., since 1992. Lisa Wagner said she and her daughter, Angel, who live in Kona, were just winding up a month-long visit.
Still wearing her lavender pajamas, Angel flashed smiles as she trotted around a neighbor's yard yesterday, putting out her hands to catch a little sprinkle of raindrops. Later, as her mother held her, Angel asked, "What happened to the house? What happened to the cars?"
The Fire Department received the alarm at 4:35 a.m., and engines arrived eight minutes later and kept the fire from spreading to neighboring homes, according to Fire Department spokesman Kenison Tejada. Damage was estimated at $300,000 to the home and $100,000 to its contents. The American Red Cross was to offer help to the family.
In the front yard, red seats on a swing set had melted into clumps of plastic, and a bicycle with pink wheels lay on its side in the grass, unscathed. Rachel Wagner sat on her neighbor's stoop and looked at what was left of the home where she grew up.
"It had a big yard to play in," she said, then paused as she blinked back tears. "I don't think I'll be playing anymore."