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StarBulletin.com

Woman is rescued from burning home


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POSTED: Thursday, September 24, 2009

A police officer's quick action saved an elderly woman who was alone in her son's Kailua home yesterday afternoon, unaware the house was on fire.

Officer Antonio Bustamante said he just happened to be driving by when he saw smoke coming from the house. He rushed in and found the woman—about 75 years old—in the kitchen and brought her outside.

“;As soon as I got her out, the house was engulfed in smoke,”; the 40-year-old officer said. He asked if anyone else was inside, and she said, “;No,”; but didn't say much else.

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said “;flames were rolling out from the back of the house”; when firefighters arrived at 675 Ulumalu St., in the Pohakupu neighborhood near the Aloha Petroleum station and 7-Eleven on Kailua Road.

Neighbors informed responding firefighters that the man who lives alone at the house uses a wheelchair.

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Not realizing that a police officer had helped the elderly woman out of the burning house, firefighters searched inside but found no one. Bystanders reported the man's mother might have been visiting, and they conducted a second search.

The officer brought the woman to a nearby gift basket shop, where she waited until her family arrived. Merryl Iraha, owner of Island Treats Creations, said the woman said she was OK and sat quietly while she waited. The officer began directing traffic in the area of the fire.

The fire caused an estimated $300,000 in damage to the home and its contents, and the house is not habitable, Seelig said. The house next door at 669 Ulumalu St. received an estimated $25,000 in damage to its garage.

The cause is under investigation, and the American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter, is assisting.

The first fire company arrived just four minutes after the 2 p.m. alarm. About 35 firefighters brought the blaze under control at 2:17 p.m.

The man and his mother remained in a nearby parking lot with other family members and declined to be interviewed.

Kailua High School freshman Rose Nash, 14, was on her way home from school with classmate Shelby Sato-Perreira when they saw the fire.

“;We saw smoke coming up from the house, and it got blacker and bigger and flames started shooting up from the house,”; Nash said.

“;The flames were really high above the roof,”; added Sato-Perreira, who took photos with her cell phone.

Sato-Perreira said the two were standing on the corner of the street in front of the house just minutes before.

Nash said she worried there might be someone inside.

“;Our stomachs were doing somersaults,”; she said. “;All I could think was, that could have been my house.”;