Family living by candlelight displaced by fire at Pearl City home

House damaged by fire
House damaged by fire
Janet Billimon
Janet Billimon
George Rapisora
George Rapisora

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - The American Red Cross is providing shelter, food and clothing for a family of nine from Pearl City after a Thanksgiving Day house fire that was caused by an unattended candle. The fire left an estimated $250,000 in damages.

The family that was renting the two-story house says it had been living by candlelight because it couldn't pay its electric bill.

Flames spared a stroller in the garage and several blankets in a downstairs bedroom. But they ravaged the second-floor of the house on Fourth Street in Pearl City, doing a number on an appliance that's now unrecognizable.

"It was scary," Janet Billimon, fire victim, said. "I couldn't believe it happened."

Billimon says the fire started in her son Charlie's bedroom at about 5:30 AM.

"My son sleeps with a candle on," she said. "So probably candle started the fire."

"I went up to change and then put the candle down, laid down and I fell asleep," Charlie Billimon said. "I was thinking of bringing it back downstairs because my mom did tell me not to leave it in the room before I burn the house."

Janet Billimon says she tried desperately to stomp out the flames.

"I was trying to grab a carpet from the living room to cover the fire," she said. "But as soon as I got back, I was running, I got back, the fire was already out the door."

So the frantic effort to get her large family out of the house began.

"I had to scream all the time, calling everybody's name to make sure everybody's out," she said.

Fire officials say four adults and five children lived here. Seven of the nine were home when the fire broke out.

"I see them almost every day," George Rapisora, neighbor, said. "They're really quiet. They're really nice people. They don't bother nobody. It was just so sad to see something like this happen."

Rapisora works at the city road maintenance and refuse yard nearby. He offered the displaced family the use of his restrooms, but felt he could do more.

"About quarter to seven or so, I saw them just still sitting out there, you know," he said. "So it looked really, really sad sight."

So Rapisora and his wife went grocery shopping.

"I really don't know what they eat," he said. "But there was rotisserie chicken and some fried chicken. I picked up some juice for the little ones and some pastries and stuff."

Just don't call him a Good Samaritan.

"I think any human wouldn't have a second guess or second thought to do something like this in a situation like this, especially on Thanksgiving," Rapisora said.

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