Bonifacio Bautista stood in front of his burned-out home yesterday on Akua Street in Ewa Beach with his dog, Rusty, who survived the fire. It took firefighters almost an hour to bring the Christmas Day fire under


Christmas blaze
totals home in
Ewa Beach

The family escapes but loses
everything in the house fire

Bonifacio Bautista was napping with his wife and three of their children Christmas afternoon unaware of the fire that was burning around the Christmas tree in their Ewa Beach home.

"I smelled smoke and got up," Bautista said.


By that point his entire living room was ablaze, and the fire was spreading. The 42-year-old grabbed his children and ran out of the house.

But his wife, Gina, went into the bathroom in hopes of dousing some of the flames with buckets of water. Soon trapped by the growing fire, she was forced to escape through the bathroom's small window.

"I lost everything. It's totaled," Bautista said yesterday while relatives gathered to lend support and his wife, squatting on the ground crying, was rocking one of their children. But Bautista, a 21-year military veteran, was also thankful to have his family alive and safe.

"What happens happens," he said, shrugging as he glanced at his destroyed home and its blackened innards.

More than 30 firefighters were called to the home at 91-560 Akua St. at about 3:13 p.m. yesterday. It took them almost an hour to bring the Christmas Day fire under control, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Emmit Kane.

Before firefighters arrived, a handful of Bautista's neighbors were trying to contain the flames by washing the home down with their garden hoses.

"Everybody was yelling, and I came out and the house was burning," said Tracey Tamura, who lives across the street. Tamura said he aimed his hose at the roof of the burning house to stop flames from jumping to nearby eaves.

Bautista suffered minor first-degree burns on his back, and his hair was singed by the blaze. Three of his children - ages 7, 5 and 3 - were home at the time of the fire.

They and his wife were uninjured.

Bautista's 11-year-old son and his mother- and father-in-law also live at the home and were away when the fire started.

Fire officials estimated damage at $175,000 to the house and $75,000 to the contents.

"I don't know how I'm going to rebuild," Bautista said after the flames had been doused.

Among the charred remains of furniture sat three small

bicycles - their wheels burned away and their frames blackened - still dripping with the water used to choke the fire.

Half of Bautista's living room wall was missing, a portion of the roof had collapsed and pots could be seen hanging in the kitchen through a large chunk of burned-out wall.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Bautista said he thought the fire may have started in the living room near the Christmas tree, which was unplugged.

The family will stay with Bautista's brother. The American Red Cross of Hawaii is also assisting the family with clothes and toiletries.

Bautista's 11-year-old son, Mark Anthony, was at a nearby cousin's house when the fire erupted. He said his aunt was crying as she raced down the neighborhood's quiet one-lane road, picked him up and drove him to his burning home.

The sixth-grader, who attends Ewa Beach Elementary School, said there were also at least five presents left unopened under the tree. The family had planned to open them at a celebration last night.

Bautista said he has lived at the home, which is owned by his wife's parents, since 1997. The family's three dogs were all accounted for and fine.


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