Flames destroy car,
half of Waipahu home

Fire destroyed a car and parts of an Awamoi Street home yesterday in Waipahu.

Honolulu Fire Department officials said the fire at 94-546 Awamoi St. destroyed about half of the home belonging to Howard and Cynthia Kawanishi, who were not home when the alarm came in at 11:19 a.m.

Neighbor Donald Leong said he was hanging clothes when he smelled smoke and looked across the street to see flames in the Kawanishis' garage.

"I thought somebody was burning rubbish, because a lot of old folks burn rubbish still," Leong said. "I couldn't believe how fast the fire spread. ... I was worried about the car exploding."

The heat eventually caused the windows of the car in the garage and some in the house to shatter, causing loud popping noises that could be heard down the street by neighbors.

"I thought somebody was shooting," said neighbor Esther Hajiro. "Boom, boom, boom! I hid in the bedroom."

Fire officials said firefighters got to the scene less than five minutes after the first alarm and had the fire under control within 10 minutes, at 11:33 a.m.

By then, however, the flames had already caused an estimated $255,000 in damage to the house and contents.

"We still cannot tell if this started inside the house or in the garage," said HFD spokesman Capt. Kenison Tejada.

Capt. Emmit Kane said the cause of the fire was probably spontaneous heating from chemicals.

Tejada said no one was at home during the fire. Hajiro said she had heard the Kawanishis had a recent death in the family and might have been attending funeral services when the fire took place.

"Good family. Boys have good jobs, finish college long time already," Hajiro said.

Tejada said firefighters had to cut a lock on the driveway gate and also forcibly entered the house.

He said they used fire retardant foam to put out the car fire and suppress any dangerous vapors from flammable liquids in the vehicle.

A next-door neighbor's garage had some heat damage from the fire.

Tejada said there were no injuries, and no residents were evacuated.

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