RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A Honolulu Fire Department investigator entered the damaged second story of a house along Farrington Highway in Nanakuli that burned yesterday afternoon, displacing two families.
2 families left homeless
In the smoke and confusion of a fire that engulfed her Nanakuli home, Elisa Marluck could not find her 4-year-old son, Jason Joe.
Matthew Mauai-Silifaiva ran over from a side street after seeing smoke and heard Marluck say, "Where's my son? Where's my son?"
Mauai-Silifaiva sent neighbor Wendel Kamealoha to check under the burning house because he is smaller.
That was where the boy was hiding.
"He was having a hard time bringing the boy out, so I reached under and pulled him out," Mauai-Silifaiva said.
The fire gutted the top floor of an old two-story wooden house where Marluck, son Jason, 10-year-old daughter, fiance, sister and adult nephew lived. Another family of four adults and four children who lived downstairs was not at home at the time.
The Fire Department sent its first unit at 2:06 p.m. to 87-1594 Farrington Highway near Lualei Place and arrived in four minutes. About 25 firefighters brought the blaze under control by 2:21 p.m., and it was extinguished at 2:30 p.m. The Fire Department estimated the damage at $250,000 to the structure and $60,000 to its contents.
The fire left the upstairs unit destroyed and the bottom unit heavily damaged by smoke and water, said fire Capt. Terry Seelig.
"It's going to have to be torn down," he said.
Marluck had sent her daughter upstairs to get a glass of water, but she came down and said something was burning.
Meanwhile, Kamealoha said they saw the smoke from their vantage point behind the house.
"By the time we hit the corner, was in flames, the whole top was engulfed," he said.
Upon arrival they found Marluck and her sister-in-law in the carport, seemingly unaware of the fire.
Mauai-Silifaiva said he told the women, "Your house is on fire! Get out of the garage!"
"They wasn't even worried," he added. "I had to tell them what to do."
Marluck said Jason had been with her and her sister-in-law in the carport, but the boy "was scared because the smoke kept going around and he couldn't see anything."
Red Cross volunteers assisted the families but said they could not find permanent housing.
The two families, who were renting, were left homeless and planned last night to stay with family, but worried that they might not find a home they can afford.
Marluck said they paid $1,300 a month for the three-bedroom, one-bath upstairs unit. The family arrived June 22 from Chuuk, in Micronesia.
"My sister-in-law's house is really full," Marluck said. "Maybe we can stay only two nights."
Marilyn Vallo, 31, who lived in the downstairs unit, had just left to pick up her children from school.
"I can't believe that actually happened. It was in perfectly good condition before I left, two minutes before I got the call," she said.
It was reminiscent of when her daughter and niece, playing with a lighter, started a small fire downstairs last year, causing $7,000 in smoke damage.
"This is way worse," she said.
Victoria Vallo, 7, said, "I stopped doing that (playing with lighters)."
Police contra-flowed traffic on portions of Farrington Highway as smoke poured from the burning house.