Kaloko fire leaves family homeless

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A lack of water forced firefighters to battle a Kaloko house fire through the night and into Saturday morning.

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A lack of water forced firefighters to battle a Kaloko house fire through the night and into Saturday morning.

Following the 7.5-hour struggle with the blaze that consumed most of the massive Hookele Street residence, owner Lei Huebner stood with firefighters, police and Red Cross workers, uncertain how to proceed as wild chickens scratched through the ashes of her home.

“I’m in a hotel for two days, then I’m in the air. I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It all got burned.”

Huebner was in an upstairs computer room Friday night at about 9 p.m. when she heard crackling sounds. The blaze spread rapidly from a garage area, likely sparked by electrical cords or a mosquito coil, she said. Her daughter, Teri Pedro, said power strips also might have been the cause.

As the flames spread, Huebner left a collection of Queen Liliuokalani antiques for lost and tried to get her animals out instead.

“I got one dog out and went to get the cat and the roof fell in. I knew I’d better get out,” said Huebner, who could hear another dog she knew she could not reach, a corgi named Chester, crying through the wall.

Huebner, Pedro and a tenant who asked not to be identified were able to escape the blaze uninjured. They watched as a stream of fire engines from Kailua-Kona, Makalei and South Kohala made runs for water throughout the night.

“There are no hydrants here; they had to keep going back and forth,” Huebner said.

Fire inspectors have not determined the cause of the fire, which caused an estimated $350,000 in damage to the 4,500-square-foot, two-story home. Firefighters were able to save just one corner of the structure. The house was insured, Huebner said.

A three-wheel ATV and antiques, including a gold bracelet that belonged to Queen Liliuokalani and letters from the queen, were among numerous other belongings lost, Huebner said. She was able to salvage a single antique rocking chair.

Neighbor Lisa Hummel was alerted to the fire by the sound of crackling and explosions and saw the orange glow when she looked mauka.

“We don’t have hydrants up here and that’s always been a concern,” Hummel said Saturday morning, standing in Huebner’s driveway.

Hummel said the neighborhood’s residents watch out for each other.

“I gave Lei my number, so if you need anything — clothes, shoes, whatever you need,” she told Huebner’s tenant. “I’m just glad you’re OK.”

Nancy Sallee, a Red Cross mental health volunteer, was on hand Saturday to assist the family. The home’s three occupants are being put up for two nights in a hotel and supplied with clothing and food, Sallee said. The Red Cross also will assist in finding permanent housing, she said.

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To help the family, contact Huebner’s daughter, Kristy Hui Hui, at 333-4234.

Email Bret Yager at byager@westhawaiitoday.com.

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