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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hundreds of crates up in smoke

Video: Empty crates fuel Waimalu fire

By Dave Dondoneau
Advertiser Staff Writer

Firefighters mop up after a fire that broke out yesterday in empty containers stacked between two warehouses belonging to Precision Moving and Storage Co. Flames from the early morning fire on 'Oihana Place in 'Aiea shot up at least 30 feet, onlookers said.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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'AIEA Hundreds of wooden crates stacked outside a moving and storage company erupted in fire early yesterday morning in a spectacular display that could be seen for miles.

Flames at least 30 feet high shot out from the blaze, onlookers said, generating huge plumes of smoke. The fire on 'Oihana Place was reported at 2:47 a.m. and in less than a half-hour, dense smoke had moved across roads, over to the Waimalu Safeway and into neighborhoods.

Investigators were still looking for a cause into the evening, and no damage estimates were available.

No one was injured.

The crates are believed to belong to Precision Moving and Storage Co., said Capt. Kenison Tejada of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Attempts to reach the company's owners were unsuccessful last night.

Nearby businesses Abbey Carpet, Ige's Restaurant & 19th Puka, and Buzz's Steakhouse were not damaged and no injuries were reported.

The fire grabbed the attention of several people driving on the H-1 Freeway and around other parts of Pearl City, 'Aiea and 'Ewa Beach early yesterday morning.

"I was up on Royal Summit talking on the phone when I saw the flames; they were huge," said Ray Ichino, a 37-year-old 'Aiea resident. "I thought the Tesoro gas station (nearby, but down the street) had blown up. I came down to see it."

Nikki Okuhara and her friends, Matthew Harada and Kea Nakamura, all of Pearl City, sat in their car at a nearby parking lot for nearly an hour watching fire trucks dump hundreds of gallons of water on the flames.

"We were driving on Kamehameha Highway when we saw smoke and flames at least 30 feet high," Okuhara said. "It was pretty trippy. We saw everyone else watching, so we came over and watched, too. We've been here at least 45 minutes and it doesn't look like they (firefighters) have got it to go down much."

Tejada said the fire was contained as of 4:36 a.m. but was not declared extinguished until 2 p.m.

"There are so many containers we can't get to because of the way they're stacked and nowhere to walk," Tejada said early yesterday. "No matter how much water we fire at the crates, if there's more burning behind one of the walls, we can't get to it."

Six engines, one ladder truck and a total of 35 firefighters answered the fire call. The wooden crates of various sizes were located between what appeared to be two warehouses for Precision Moving and Storage Co.

Compounding the trouble was that the burning crates were backed against a steep hill, so firefighters could attack the fire only from one side while a ladder truck remained at the bottom of the hill and fired a steady stream of water onto the containers and buildings.

Staff writer Peter Boylan contributed to this report.

Reach Dave Dondoneau at ddondoneau@honoluluadvertiser.com.