A fire investigator walked through the remains of a house that burned down yesterday near the corner of Piikoi Street and Matlock Avenue.

Fire guts cluttered
home in Makiki

A Makiki man's cluttered home turned into "a torch" yesterday morning, neighbors said.

Residents living across the street from 1214 Matlock Ave. reported seeing flames and smoke coming from the home at 4:09 a.m., according to Honolulu Fire Department officials.

Across town, another fire broke out at Hawaii Metal Recycling in Campbell Industrial Park on Hanua Street at 4:10 a.m. The two fires required a total of about 75 firefighters, or about a fourth of all those on duty on Oahu at the time, said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Emmit Kane.

Kane said the Hawaii Metal Recycling fire was under control at 4:38 a.m. and involved some recycling materials and conveyor belts that caught fire. The cause is still under investigation.

When firefighters got to the Makiki fire, they had trouble getting around the home to fight the blaze because more than half a dozen cars and other vehicles surrounded it like a barricade.

"There was a lot of debris around the home and limited access to rooms. It made fighting the fire difficult," said Kane.

The amount of debris inside the collapsed house made it difficult to determine the cause of the fire, Kane said.

The man who lived in the home, Peter Hernandez, said he thinks the fire could have been caused by an "electrical short."

Flames consumed the Diamond Head side of the two- bedroom home, gutting it. Kane said at the time of the fire, Hernandez was asleep in the living room and awoke when he heard some "popping" sounds coming from the corner of the room where the air conditioner was located.

He escaped without injury.

"I don't know what happened," Hernandez said. "I'm fine. My dog's OK."

One neighbor said when he awoke, he saw Hernandez still in the house as it burned, trying to get to his dog in the back yard.

"I yelled at the guy to get out," said Christopher Hunt. "I said, 'Get away from the house,' because it was going up fast."

The house was in bad shape, with termite damage "to the max," Hunt said. "With the amount of junk he had in there, it went up like a torch."

Kane said the fire was under control by 4:26 a.m. and that damage to the home and its contents is estimated at $200,000. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Last fall, the condition of the home was a topic at a Makiki/Tantalus Neighborhood Board meeting. Board officials stated at the Nov. 18 meeting that the home was "unsanitary with the sight of rodents coming out during daylight hours" and that the "Department of Health should be notified, and the problem needs to be solved now."

Neighbors said they had complained about the condition of Hernandez's house and yard numerous times and that he also left spotlights on his porch on all night so that no one would steal the vehicles in his yard.

Police closed Piikoi Street from Beretania to Lunalilo streets for a little more than an hour while firefighters battled the house fire. Matlock Avenue also was closed.

The road was reopened before the peak morning rush hour.

Honolulu Police Department

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