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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:37 p.m., Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Fire guts Kalihi Valley home

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Fire victim Charles Allen sat this morning near the gutted split-level, two-bedroom Kalihi Valley rental house that has been his home for 27 years, talking to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Red Cross staff about food and clothing assistance.

His house was destroyed in an early-morning fire today.

"I lost everything but I least I have my health and I got my main thing out," the 54-year-old Allen said of his prized tenor saxaphone. "It feels like I fell off a horse right now so I got to get back up and start over again."

Eight fire companies responded today to a 5:18 a.m. alarm at 2635-A Kalihi St. and reported the fire under control at 5:47 a.m. Damage to Allenís house, which is a back unit situated in a tight cluster of homes, is estimated at $250,000 to the structure and $30,000 to contents. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Allen was downstairs when he smelled smoke coming from an upstairs storage room. "I noticed the glow from the fire and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher," said Allen, a graphic artist/sign painter who works at Hickam Air Force Base. "When it ran out, I grabbed a second extinguisher and it ran out. Thatís when I got out."

Allen will be spending Christmas with a friend.

"It was a good stop," fire inspector Capt. Glenn Solem said of firefightersí efforts to contain the fire damage to one unit.

The Kalihi Uka company used an elevated hose on its engine truck to shoot water over the front house and onto the burning structure as firefighters worked water lines up a narrow path.

"Weíre very fortunate the other houses didnít catch on fire and nobody got hurt," said Wendell Lumabao, whose parents Isidro and Florentina Lumabao own the rental homes.

A neighbor, Gail Gonsalves, agrees. "Main thing, lives were saved," Gonsalves said. "You can replace a house but you canít replace a life."

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com