ANAHOLA – Ryder Avina ran to escape the flames ripping through the front of his burning house.
Inside the one-story house were all the toys the 7-year-old received from his mother Robin and her fiancé Jesse Fergerstrom just three days ago on Christmas. Ryder hadn’t even had a chance to test out his brand-new mini drone his mother bought him.
Everything he owned went up in flames early Monday morning in an Anahola house fire that left him, his mother and his mother’s fiancé homeless. Their dog Lulu died in the blaze.
“It’s gone. It’s all gone,” said Fergerstrom, who lived in the house for one year. “Unbelievable.”
The Anahola home was completely gutted by the fire that broke out early Monday morning leaving the family of three and another man without a place to live.
Fergerstrom said he was asleep, but his fiancé Robin, who lived in the house for eight years, woke to prepare the family for an early morning flight to Oahu for a three-day family trip.
Suddenly, Robin smelled smoke coming from the carport, he said.
“She ran outside and saw the flames,” he said. “She ran back in and told me. I ran out and ran back in.”
He was so panicked when she told him about the flames licking the side of the house, he said, he hadn’t thought to put on clothes when he went outside the first time.
“We came out and she grabbed the hose and started squirting it,” Fergerstrom said. “I went in, grabbed my shorts and grabbed Ryder. By then it was too late. I ran back to get Lulu. I couldn’t get in there. It was too late. The flames jumped up so fast.”
Fergerstrom said the fire lit up the house in five minutes and it didn’t take much for it to spread.
“Holy (expletive)!” he said he remembers thinking. “Are you (expletive) for real? Is this really happening? I thought okay, we’ll contain it, but then I thought about the trucks, the garage stuff then I saw it jump across.”
Firefighters from Lihue, Kapaa and the Kaiakea station were dispatched to 4223 Anahola Road at 4:50 a.m. and arrived to find the home fully engulfed in flames.
Firefighters could only watch as the flames ripped through the house, he said.
“It was too late,” he said. “They pretty much watched it burn out. This was too much. They just made sure it didn’t jump.”
The one-story home consisted of a three-bedroom apartment and a studio which was connected by a carport, where the fire appears to have started, said county spokesperson Sarah Blane.
The man living in the studio was not home at the time.
Neighbors hosed down their houses, so the flames wouldn’t get to them, Fergerstrom said.
The family of three rushed out of the home and ran towards the street as neighbors looked on.
“Then it started popping and making explosions,” Fergerstrom said.“We ran across the street and we ran down the road. It was (expletive) noisy though. Ryder ran across the street.”
Robin and Fergerstrom made attempts to save Lulu but the flames did not let up, he said.
“(Robin) gave up with the hose,” Fergerstrom said. “Then we realized Lulu was in there. I heard the dog weeping. I started bawling. She was only a year and half old. She was really part of the family.”
Fire inspectors estimate the fire caused roughly $400,000 in damages to the structure and its contents, including the tenants’ vehicles and all of their personal belongings, Blane said.
About 20 surfboards, jet skis, a brand-new Toyota Tacoma truck, two TVs, the money they pulled from the savings account that they planned to spend on the three-day day trip to Oahu, clothes — all of it is lost — Fergerstrom said.
“Material things. I can let all this stuff go, you know,” Fergerstrom said. “The things that hurts me the most is the dog. If I ever get a dog again, I will never cage it again.”
Kauai Fire Captain Daryl Date said although he can’t make a determination, he can pinpoint that the fire started near the back of the carport and was accidental.
“It was fast because the ceiling was sloped,” Date said. “Fire likes to move upwards and outwards, so it moved up and that’s why it spread fast. It’s an old house, which is why it burns faster.”
Fergerstrom’s mother, Barbara Penn was driving up to the house as it burned.
“My husband and I were all going to drive to the airport together,” Penn said. “When we came around the corner there, I could see all the lights and explosions. When I pulled up, I knew it was their house. I started running and screaming, ‘It’s Jesse’s house. It’s Jesse’s house.”
Neighbors who had congregated around the house reassured her that her son and his fiancé, who plan to marry in October, had made it out alive and were safe.
One neighbor in particular, Pat Hunter-Williams, offered her house as place of shelter for the family of three and gave them water. Others offered jackets.
“Neighbors were coming out to offer assistance,” Fergerstrom said. “Just doing whatever they could. We just watched it go and we were just crying and bawling.”
Even though he just lost everything, he still said he was thankful he had his life.
“Luckily, Robin woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. to get ready and smelled it,” Fergerstrom said. “Had that not happened, the fire would have lit up and we would have been in the (expletive) house and we would have had to jump out the window.”
His mother agreed.
“Normally nobody is up that early,” Penn said. “Thank God we had that early flight, otherwise they would have been sound asleep.”
Fergerstrom, a self-employed tile setter, said he will be staying with his mother in Kapaa until he can get back on his feet. He’s lost everything, he said.
“For me this is my little paradise,” he said. “My little family, where I could just walk to the beach. Neighbors were good. It happened so fast.”
A gofundme page set up for the family had raised more than $6,000 in less than five hours.