911 recordings released from Makiki fire

Lurline Mattos
Lurline Mattos
1190 Wilder Avenue
1190 Wilder Avenue

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

The first call to 911 came in at 2:15 a.m. Sunday and the fire was already going strong.

911: "You're calling about the building fire 1190 Wilder Avenue?"

Caller: "Yes sir, right now it's going wild, there's a fire department right next door."

911: "Okay, we're on our way."

911: "Are you calling about a building fire?"

Caller: "Yeah Liholiho and Wilder right across the street from the fire station."

911: "It's really burning?"

Caller: "Yeah. It's going up bad."

911: "Okay bye."

Within minutes 22 emergency calls came in to one operator alone.  In four minutes at 2:19 a.m. firefighters were on scene.  Some people still called even after the engine had arrived.

911: "It's fully involved."

(Answering call)

"Fire department, are you calling about the building fire on Wilder Avenue?"

Caller: "Yes."

911: "We're at scene."

Caller: "What?"

911: "We're at scene."

Caller: "Uh, uh, hurry!"

911: "Yeah we're at scene."

Caller: "Thank you."

The first firefighters were from the station right across the street.  At that point two apartments were gone likely because there was no smoke alarm to alert residents early and there was plenty of air and wood to fuel the fire.

"We recognize that people are still upset over what they perceive to be our response but we're absolutely certain we got there within the period we describe and that's well within what we expect the first companies to be able to do and it's just the fire was very big and to stand there and watch it developing and continuing I'm sure that it seemed much longer than it really was," said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department Spokesperson.

People like Lurline Mattos are mad.  Her son was intoxicated in the apartment next door and didn't wake up even through all the commotion.  Firefighters rescued him safely but still not fast enough for this mom.

"Why did it take the fire department this long to respond or even to attempt to knock this door down," said Mattos.

"When we're able to rescue a person and keep the fire from spreading beyond where we initially found it we consider that to be a successful fire.  I know the people that suffered through it don't feel the same way and of course our hearts go out to them for the loss and the danger they face but please have faith in our department," said Capt. Seelig.

What's still not known is how much time went by from when the fire first started to when the first 911 call was made.  And some people may still be mad but no one has any proof yet to show it took the fire department longer than four minutes to get on scene.

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