PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Investigators say a fire Sunday morning left an estimated $250,000 in damages to a house in Pearl City that has been in foreclosure for about a year.
Neighbors say the house wasn't empty at night. They suspect illegal activity.
Investigators walked through the charred structure trying to determine what sparked the blaze that jolted neighbors from their sleep.
"I saw the smoke and then some flames," Kelci Quinabo, neighbor, said. "Then I heard the cracking of the windows."
Quinabo's grandfather immediately grabbed a garden hose to fight the flames that were right next door.
"It was scary," Quinabo said. "I thought it was going to come this way. That's why grandpa said, 'Get out.'"
With the homes of Luehu Street so close together, others rushed over to assist with little concern for their own safety.
"Our neighborhood is very close," Megan Quinabo, neighbor, said. "So it was good that everyone was worrying about each other and people even came to help."
Officials say firefighters arrived at the scene five minutes after the 7:59 AM alarm, and had the fire under control about 10 minutes after that. It all happened in the rear portion of the two-story duplex.
"Currently, we understand the house is under foreclosure," Capt. Robert Main, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "The house has been abandoned for about a year."
But those who live on the same street say the property has had a steady stream of unofficial guests, as many as 15 at a time.
"Oh, lots of people go inside there, especially night time," Frank Tagata, neighbor, said. "Always noisy night time."
Tagata, who lives next door, suspects drug use.
"I see them," he said. "Sometimes they roll something, then smoke, then after that pass to the next guy."
While the flames did cause quite a scare, neighbors say at least the squatters will be gone.
"Now I can sleep better," Tagata said. "I thanks to God already."