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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Salt Lake couple critically injured in fire

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Firefighters wheel away John Takami after a fire destroyed his home on Ala Lehua in Salt Lake. Takami's wife, Nellie, also was hurt in the fire.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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SALT LAKE Gary Kaneshiro had reported to his job with a city pothole repair crew when he was called into his boss's office about 7 a.m. and told there had been a fire at his uncle's home.

Longtime Salt Lake residents John and Nellie Takami, Kaneshiro's uncle and auntie, were critically injured due to smoke inhalation yesterday morning in the blaze that destroyed their home, which they had lived in since it was built at least 27 years ago. The Takamis were the only ones home when the fire broke out around 6:10 a.m., Fire Capt. Emmit Kane said.

The Kaneshiros and a girlfriend of one of the nephews also lived at the home at 984 Ala Lehua.

At the scene, Kaneshiro was sitting on a nearby curb being consoled by a Red Cross worker; by the time he got there, the fire had been put out and his uncle and auntie had already been taken to a hospital. Kaneshiro said he and his brother, Glenn Kaneshiro, moved into his uncle's house "four or five years ago."

Kane said the first two fire crews arrived at the home within minutes.

"They were notified by a passer-by that someone inside the house was yelling for help," Kane said. "The firefighters advanced 10 to 15 feet into the burning home and found the body of an elderly female, semiconscious, saying her husband was still in there."

Moments later, an unconscious older man was found lying on the living room floor, Kane said.

"The male suffered some minor first- and second-degree burns to his arms," Kane said. "But the most life-threatening injuries were due to the toxic smoke the two inhaled."

The husband and wife were transported to the Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center by city paramedics.

Kane said witnesses told firefighters the blaze appeared to have broken out in the carport area and quickly spread to the main building. The fire was reported at 6:12 a.m. and the first firefighters arrived at the home at 6:15 a.m. Eight fire crews consisting of 30 to 35 firefighters eventually fought the two-alarm blaze, Kane said.

"The house is uninhabitable and the Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the family members," Kane said.

An investigator said the manner in which the fire spread is consistent with witness reports that it appeared to have broken out in the carport, Kane said.

The cause of the fire and a damage estimate had not yet been determined, Kane said.

Neighbors described the Takamis as very quiet and said they spent most of their time indoors. They said John Takami retired from his job as a ready-mix concrete truck driver 10 or 15 years ago.

The Takamis used to sit in their carport and talk with visitors but stopped the practice more than 10 years ago, neighbors said.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com.