5 escape fire at American Self Storage

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LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today An official with Hawaii Fire Department investigates the scene of a fire Tuesday morning at Great American Self Storage in Kailua-Kona.
LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today The second-story manager’s residence at Great American Self Storage was destroyed by fire early Tuesday morning.
LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Water damage in the first-floor office area at Great American Self Storage in Kailua-Kona is seen after a fire ripped through the second-floor manager’s residence Tuesday morning.

KAILUA-KONA — The manager of Great American Self Storage in Kailua-Kona and her husband are homeless after a Tuesday morning structure fire.

“You never think it’s gonna happen to you,” said manager Kat Rauch. “Never in a million years did I think I would go through a house fire.”

The fire occurred on the second floor of a two-story structure at the storage facility. The Rauchs, who live on the second floor of the building, were awoken by a fire alarm about 1:30 a.m.

“When I opened the bedroom door, I got hit with heat and smoke,” said John Rauch, Kat’s husband.

At that point, John Rauch recalls yelling, “Get out!”

“We ran out with just the clothes on our backs,” he said. “We were making it down the stairs as the fire followed us out.”

The Rauchs had relatives staying with them at the time — two adults and a 13-month-old child. Everyone made it out safely, including the couple’s two dogs.

“If we hadn’t woken up or hesitated, we would’ve been trapped in the back,” Kat Rauch said.

After calling 911, the Rauchs said it felt like it took hours for fire crews to respond. According to Hawaii Fire Department, the first call came in at 1:48 a.m. The first unit arrived at the scene at 2:01 a.m.

Crews from Kailua-Kona, Keauhou, Makalei, Captain Cook and South Kohala responded.

According to fire officials, heavy fire was evident from the lanai and living area of the structure, which has a downstairs office and is connected to the commercial self-storage facility.

The release states firefighters were able to stop the flames from spreading. The fire was contained to the upstairs residential unit. Crews were able to salvage items from the downstairs office area and move them to a nearby available storage area.

The blaze was extinguished by 2:45 a.m.

From clothes to wedding photos, Kat Rauch said the fire took it all.

“Everything we own just went up in flames,” she said.

The Red Cross responded to assist the Rauchs and their house guests. However, when they tried to get a hotel room Tuesday morning, Kat Rauch said there was nothing available, so they slept in an open storage unit.

The approximate value of the building is $500,000, with damage estimated at $275,000, including personal items and contents.

The fire is not thought to be suspicious, and its cause is under investigation.

Kat Rauch reassured the storage tenants that their property was secure and she and her husband were safe. She added that if any of the tenants needed to contact her, she is still reachable on her cellphone.

“This place (is) my baby,” she said. “We are an ohana here.”

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.