Fire guts Date Street apartment


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

A thin white blanket covered Koleman Pauline and Carlos Zepeda in the drizzle yesterday afternoon after fire destroyed their home and killed their two pets.

The couple held onto each other in the gray light with eyes red and puffy from tears while sitting on the steps of their Laau Gardens apartment building at 2609 Date Street.

“;I lost my animals, my babies. Everything,”; said Pauline, 27, a Chaminade University student. He also lost his school books and papers.

Their Lhasa apso dog Roxi and domestic shorthaired cat Gatita died in the fire.

Honolulu Fire Capt. Earle Kealoha said the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the apartment and its contents. The fire also backed up traffic as Date Street was closed between Kapiolani Boulevard and Olokele Avenue for about an hour and a half. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire started at about 1:45 p.m. as Zepeda, 22, was taking a shower.

“;I don't know how the fire started,”; he said. “;I smelled smoke, so I came out of the shower and right there I see everything is smoke.”;

He broke the bathroom window and jumped out onto a dryer to escape, fleeing in a pair of shorts.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in the ground-floor apartment of the three-story building within 30 minutes, Kealoha said. Two apartments directly above the unit sustained smoke damage.

It's been a difficult year for the two men, who moved into the apartment about seven months ago after moving from the Big Island.

Pauline's car was stolen recently, and Zepeda was robbed at knifepoint near Kaimuki High School.

Pauline said there were two small fires in their apartment since January. The first was an electrical outlet that burst into flames at 2:30 in the morning. The second was a bathroom light fixture that suddenly caught fire on Tuesday, he said.

The Red Cross provided a hotel room for the men, but they are not sure what they will do or where they will live next.

“;I cannot even think straight,”; Pauline said. “;I'm just in shock.”;