7 houses burn in 2 months

Another home burned late Monday night, marking the seventh destructive house blaze in the past 60 days.

No one was injured when the 900 square foot Moloa‘a residence at 7061 Ko‘olau Road was destroyed by fire, as its owners were on the Mainland, Mary Daubert, county spokeswoman, said.

Seven house fires in two months is a rate that’s being cited by county officials as unusually high.

However, it’s too soon to note what connection, if any, exists between them, Robert Westerman, fire chief, said.

Some 11 firefighters and rescue specialists from the Hanalei, Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e stations responded to the fire, after smoke and flames were reported to police dispatch a little after 11 p.m. Monday, Daubert said.

The single-story home and garage with attached storeroom were completely destroyed, in large part because firefighters couldn’t access the property.

That’s because the home was located at the end of a long private driveway that was too narrow for fire engines.

Instead of being put to use, three large fire trucks sat on the side of the road as firefighters used floating pumps that are normally used for brush fires to saturate the area, Westerman said.

But firefighters improvised and drove three brush trucks down a portion of the very steep gravel and dirt driveway.

“There was a stream close by,” he said. “So we used floating pumps to pump water into smaller trucks with smaller hoses. They’re only effective in keeping it from spreading. They don’t have enough volume to put out a raging house fire.”

In the wake of so many fires, Westerman said it’s important for people to keep in mind what they can do to keep their lives and property intact.

Avoiding burning candles is a good place to start, he said, as two of the past five house fires began with candles.

“Unless it’s a birthday cake and you’re about to blow them out.”

Another safety tip to keep in mind is taking into consideration accessibility, he added, something especially applicable to those who “choose to live in a rural environment.”

Those who live in such areas should clear away brush and keep landscaping trimmed and junk cleared, he said, noting that regardless of where you live, having a functioning smoke detector is a must.

“The fact that I’ve heard people say smoke awakened them means their smoke alarms weren’t working,” he said.

When an alarm does go off, it’s time to call 911 and get out and stay out.

“It’s sad that people have to lose their belongings, but they’re material things,” he said.

Though firefighters have been successful at extinguishing five brush fires that have occurred in the past month, more are possible, especially if the summer and winter continue to be dry, he said.

The Moloa‘a fire was deemed under control at 1:17 a.m. and fully extinguished at around 2 a.m.

Damage to the wooden structures and their contents is estimated at $100,000.

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