MOKAUEA ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A raging fire caused an estimated $75,000 in damages to a home on Mokauea Island in Keehi Lagoon early Thursday morning. At last check, a 54-year-old man was still unaccounted for.
The small island is the site of Oahu's last Hawaiian fishing village and is considered a historical treasure by many.
Thick smoke billowed as giant flames devoured a one-bedroom home on stilts. Ben Bagood was sleeping in the house next door.
"My wife the one wen get up," the Mokauea Island resident said. "Then she told me, ooh, the house on fire. That's it. I got up and run outside in the back, get the hoses."
While residents battled with garden hoses, firefighters faced challenges including getting close enough to the flames without running their boat aground, and the lack of fire hydrants on the 10-acre island. With Air One providing a spotlight, crews moved in on a boat with an appliance that can draw ocean water, and then shoot it at a rate of 2,000 gallons per minute.
"We had to make sure that we weren't going to shoot in an area that other people that reside on the island might get hurt by that water or that we would push the fire to other structures," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said.
The fire was extinguished about two hours after it began.
Students at Farrington High were preparing to do a service project on the island.
"I heard Mokauea Island on the news and I was wondering if we were still going to go today because I was really excited to go today," Bethany Garces, Farrington High junior, said.
Nearly 50 11th graders were scheduled to help clear brush and kiawe from the village, and remove invasive algae from its fishpond. They learned how to paddle canoes and visited a different part of the island instead.
"The purpose is to bring them out and have an outdoor learning experience instead of being in the four walls of a classroom," Diane Tom-Ogata, Farrington High teacher, said.
Our news crew climbed into a boat to get an up-close look at the destruction. Investigators will return Friday to try to figure out how the fire started.
Bagood says he's lucky the winds cooperated.
"Otherwise the thing would, if was trade winds, it would go to my house, the fire," he said. "Probably my house goin burn, too."