CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fire investigators worked yesterday at 1643 Pohaku St. in Liliha after a fire claimed the life of 93-year-old Ace Agena. A portable space heater left too close to combustible material may have ignited the blaze. CLICK FOR LARGE
Home blaze in Liliha kills 93-year-old man
Damage to the home of Ace Agena and his family is estimated at $200,000
Thick smoke and heat prevented relatives from rescuing a 93-year-old man after a fire broke out at their Liliha home yesterday morning.
The man's granddaughter and her boyfriend were at home at the time of the fire but were unable to get to her grandfather's bedroom, where the fire started, fire Capt. Terry Seelig said.
"There was no way he could have escaped the fire," said next-door neighbor Nancy Bonilla, 42. "He was ... very frail. By the time I called 911, it was too late. ... If the smoke wasn't as thick as it was, my husband would have ran in and tried to save him."
Edward Coloma, 38, who lives nearby, said he heard his neighbor calling, "Help! Help!" before the fire grew large.
The man's son, Stan Agena, identified him as Ace Agena, a retired auto mechanic who formerly owned Ace Auto Repair in Kalihi.
Agena lived at 1643 Pohaku St. in a two-bedroom unit attached to the rear of a two-story house, where his son and family lived.
Neighbors said the son had gone to the market when the fire broke out.
The fire department received the first call at 9:20 a.m. Firefighters arrived in three minutes and had it under control by 9:45 a.m., Seelig said.
They broke into the rear of the house and extinguished the fire while searching for Agena.
Agena's granddaughter and her boyfriend were upstairs in the front section of the house when they heard the smoke detector and smelled smoke, Seelig said.
Seelig said the couple did everything right, immediately calling 911 for help and trying to notify others. When they couldn't save the elderly man, they got out themselves, he said.
Investigators found a portable space heater left too close to combustible material, perhaps bedding, which may have caused the fire, Seelig said. Damage to the home and contents was estimated at $200,000.
Neighbors said Agena was a nice man who used to fix their cars at his home when he was younger.
Stan Agena said his father once built a race car and even in his old age loved to tinker with his Model T, which was the logo for his business and still sits in his garage.
Ace Agena and his wife, Vivian, ran Ace Auto Repair until he retired at age 65. Agena fell a few years ago and used a walker to get around.
He is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, his son said.