Pearl City woman dies in house fire


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Retired firefighter Ronald Ronquilio said he heard an explosion, then saw the house across the street was on fire and ran to try to help, but the front door was bolted.

“;I tried to kick the door open, but no can,”; he said. “;The fire went real fast.”;

Firefighters found the body of Lillian Sato at the back of her home at 1348 Hoolaulea St. in Pearl City.

The 89-year-old woman was a retired cashier who worked at the former Nakatani Store in Nanakuli, her relatives said.

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said the fire caused an estimated $250,000 in damage to the three-bedroom house and its contents. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

; Seelig said the death was the first fire fatality of the year on Oahu. There were three fire fatalities last year.

The fire took 20 minutes to control and 34 minutes to extinguish after firefighters were dispatched at 12:27 p.m. yesterday, Seelig said.

Sato, who would have been 90 on April 11, lived alone but was visited frequently by her children and their spouses, who tried to look after her, neighbors said.

She had lived in the same house since the 1950s and was not about to be moved into another home, said her eldest son, Ronald Sato.

“;She was independent. She wanted to live by herself,”; he said.

Her niece Sharon Nakamoto said Sato's family had pulled out the plug for the stove in her kitchen to avoid any unintentional fires.

;[Preview]    Oahu house fire kills woman

A fast-moving blaze has claimed the life of a Pearl City resident

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Nakamoto said the fire might have been caused by the explosion of an unattended microwave oven.

She said the location of the body near the patio indicated Sato had tried to get out of the house but was unsuccessful.

Ronquilio said that after failing to enter Sato's home, he was using a garden hose to shoot water at the house when the picture window exploded and the fire spread quickly, especially with the wind blowing hard.

Ronquilio said he would see Sato in her front yard in the mornings sitting on her stool and weeding the lawn.

“;This morning I saw her. I waved to her,”; Ronquilio said.