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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Only charred hulk of home is left

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Above: Curious children pause on the way home from school to look at the remnants of what was the home of an extended family of 26. Now there are only 25, and they are homeless.

Below: Memorial flowers and balloons are a tribute to fire victim 84-year-old Catalina Oasay, who died in a corner room of the second floor.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Residents on Adelaide Street in Kalihi could still smell the smoke a day after a house fire claimed the life of 84-year-old Pia Oasay.

The corner room where the victim was found is the only section of the second floor where the roof is still standing. Red flowers and balloons that say "I love you" have been placed in the room, the bright color standing out against the charred walls.

The Rev. Tim Quintero, a longtime friend of the extended family that lived in the house on the narrow private road for 20 years, walked among the burned remnants to bless the site.

"Let the power of the Holy Spirit be present in this place," Quintero said, "and make it a secure habitat for those that reside in it."

Just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, fire broke out in the second-floor kitchen at the rear of the home. Eleven of the 26 family members living there were home.

Mike Sales was returning home from his delivery job when he found the house on fire. He ran inside and helped out his uncle, Pascual Oasay, then returned for his mother-in law, Lourdes Pascua. But he could not get inside the home a third time to save his aunt. The smoke and heat were too much.

Sales' nephew, Boni Lim, said it was unusual that his uncle would return from work so early in the day.

"God played a hand in this," Lim said. "If he had not come home, more people would have been hurt."

Neighbors say almost everyone on Adelaide Street has lived there for decades and it is a close-knit area. Years ago, police raided a drug house a block over, but they said this is the worst tragedy they have ever seen.

Helen Ah Yuen lives next to the burned home and said the elderly victim was hard of hearing and had trouble walking. She said the family had just finished painting the home.

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo said he could not recall another single home fire that left so many people homeless.

Six Red Cross workers were needed to help the 17 adults and eight children whose home was destroyed.

The fire caused an estimated $400,000 damage to the building and $80,000 to the contents, Soo said. The cause is still under investigation.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.

CORRECTION: Pia Oasay was the victim in yesterday's fatal fire in Kalihi. An earlier version of this story erroneously reported her first name.