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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:47 a.m., Friday, October 4, 2002

Passer-by saves woman from house fire

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Carl Watanabe is being credited with saving an elderly woman's life today as fire gutted her Pearl City Uplands home.
Honolulu firefighters hose down what is left of a Pearl City Uplands home that was gutted by fire today.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 6:07 a.m. fire at 1866 Palamoi St. caused $250,000 in estimated structural damage and $20,000 to contents, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo. Four companies responded to the alarm and reported the fire under control at 6:21 a.m.

More importantly, a 77-year-old woman, who was asleep and alone in the burning house, escaped uninjured thanks to Watanabe's efforts. "From what neighbors told us, the guy saved the lady's life," Soo said.

Watanabe, 53, a claims examiner for Kemper Insurance, lives nearby and was on his way to work when he noticed the fire. "I was waiting at a stoplight behind a bus when I saw what I thought was a flickering light," Watanabe said. "But then I realized it was flames."

Watanabe made a U-turn and drove to the house. "I was banging on the door and yelling," he said. "I heard the lady saying, 'wait, wait.' When she came to the door, she asked me what was going on."

Watanabe urged her to get out of the house immediately but she attempted to go back in to retrieve personal items. "I told her 'no can wait' several times and asked if anyone else was in the house," he said. "Fortunately, no one else was inside."

Watanabe left the scene and did not talk to firefighters. Soo said Watanabe was found with help of a morning radio program.

"I just happened to be there and I'm sure anyone else would have done the same thing," Watanabe said.

Soo said the woman, who is planning a trip to Japan, was attempting to get her passport and pet bird, which died in the fire. The Hawai'i State Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the fire victim with temporary shelter, food and clothing.

The fire appears to have started in the kitchen area of the home and the cause does not appear to be suspicious, Soo said.