Blaze destroys
Maunawili home

Fire-related calls rose this
New Year’s Eve compared to 2001

By Susan Essoyan

A Maunawili home went up in flames late last night as firefighters rushed to respond to 21 percent more alarms this New Year's Eve than last, with smoke from fireworks blanketing the city.

No one was home when an electrical short in the garage sparked the blaze about 10:20 p.m. at 1228 Aloha Oe Drive, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo. It quickly spread through the two-story house, causing $300,000 in damage.

The Maunawili homeowners were on the mainland, but two of their sons were on the scene as firefighters worked late into the night, fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said yesterday. The parents hoped to fly home yesterday, and will be helped by the American Red Cross.

"The top floor was completely destroyed," Tejada said. "It's just a really sad ending for the old year."

The Fire Department was kept on the go into the wee hours of New Year's Day as people lit fountain-style fireworks in the middle of neighborhood streets and set off firecrackers, illegal rockets and M-80s, whose thunderous booms sound like mortar rounds.

Tejada said there were 176 alarms on Dec. 31, up from 145 last year, with 50 of the calls blamed on fireworks. The Fire Department had extra trucks ready to go and would have called in extra staff, but "it didn't reach that level," he said.

"It definitely was a little more busy than last year," Tejada said. "But the only major incident was in Maunawili. ... There weren't any significant fires due to fireworks."

Soo was off duty on New Year's Eve, at home in the Kalawahine subdivision of Papakolea, but the fire captain felt like he was in the thick of the action.

"It sounded like the war zone that I experienced on New Year's growing up in Palolo," he said with a chuckle. "There were plenty of aerials, and I feel sure none of my fellow residents have pyrotechnic licenses and permits to set off things like that."

There were 62 calls for medical help on New Year's Eve, 18 of them reporting difficulty breathing, Tejada said, up from 54 medical calls last year.

Novelty fireworks such as fountains seemed especially popular this year because they do not require a permit, he said.

"They make a lot more smoke, but not as much noise," Tejada said.

Firefighters on duty at the Manoa, Kahuku and Hawaii Kai stations got an unexpected break, receiving no calls during the 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. legal window for setting off fireworks, according to Soo.

Fire Department

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