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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

'Aiea man killed in blaze despite neighbors' efforts

See more photos of yesterday’s fire in ‘Aiea Heights
Video: Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada explains Uwau Drive residents’ reactions to yesterday’s fire

Advertiser Staff

Firefighters Todd Cabral, left, and Charles Griep, both with the Mokulele fire station's Engine 8, help each other switch their air bottles during an 'Aiea Heights house fire. The old, single-wall wooden home was completely ablaze when firefighters arrived.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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By the time Jensen Quedido had made it from his house around the bend to find smoke blazing from his neighbor's house, he knew things were bad.

"These two ladies were attempting to help the guy who got out of the burning house," Quedido said. "And the guy who never make it out was trapped inside the house."

Quedido and several other neighbors in 'Aiea came together yesterday morning after a fire engulfed a house at 99-381 A Uwau Drive. Two women who declined to be interviewed were credited with escorting an 84-year-old man out of the house. Other neighbors, a Fire Department official said, kept the man from returning into the blazing house to save his brother.

Susumu Kajiwara, 81, was killed when fire gutted his 'Aiea Heights home shortly after 8:30 a.m., according to the city medical examiner's office. His brother was taken to Pali Momi Medical Center in good condition and was treated for first-degree burns.

"I wen' take a look where the smoke was coming from," Quedido said. By the time he arrived, the heat had already blown out the front and side windows, and smoke and flames up to 10 feet high were rolling up and over the eaves. Quedido said he used a garden hose from a neighboring home to wet himself down.

Any thoughts of trying to rescue the man inside the house were dashed, Quedido said, when he felt the intense heat.

He said he used the garden hose briefly to try to beat back the flames without success and then used it to wet down the roof of an adjoining home to keep it from catching fire as well. "Me and some other people were banging on the doors of the house on either side telling people get out, but no one was home," he said.

Other neighbors said the Kajiwaras rarely came out of the house.

"You know, we have a lot of old people in the neighborhood who like to walk the loop," said Quedido, a carpenter. "But those two guys, you never did see them outside."

Steve Nishiki and another worker were doing termite treatment work at a home about four houses away.

"One of my co-workers who was trenching an area outside the house came inside and told me he could smell smoke," Nishiki said. "I told him to call 911 and went outside to look."

Nishiki said he immediately heard two or three high-pitched explosions and saw smoke and flames pouring out of the windows.

He estimated that only a few minutes went by before most of the house was engulfed in flames.

He said two men tried to get into the home to search for the man who didn't make it out of the home, but were turned back by the intense heat.

Nishiki said the man who managed to get out of the house was carried to a neighbor's house until paramedics arrived to treat him.

Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said the fire was reported at about 8:30 a.m., and fire crews were at the scene within six minutes.

"It was fully engulfed by the time we got there," Tejada said.

He said the home that burned was an older, single-wall wooden structure that probably allowed flames to spread very quickly.

In all, seven fire companies responded to the two-alarm blaze, and 30 to 35 firefighters battled it. Damage was estimated at $175,000 to the building and $50,000 to its contents, Tejada said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation, although police said foul play is not suspected.