Manoa family loses everything in fast-moving house fire

Manoa family loses everything in fast-moving house fire

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Arson officials with the Honolulu Fire Department say the charred remains of a Manoa home, which collapsed in flames Thursday night, are too hazardous for a thorough investigation. The origin and cause of the fire has been listed as undetermined and damages are estimated at around $320,000.

""Everything is destroyed. Everything I own is gone. Some of the officers and the neighbor said, 'Man it started like a spark and all of a sudden it was just like ablaze'," described Chris Rossell, who has been renting the home with his father for the past eight years.

Witnesses report the blaze shooting at least 20 feet above the treeline. No one was hurt when the fire started, but the house was completely destroyed.

Neighbors were alerted by their dog and were able to scramble to safety as fire crews arrived -- but at the time, they and officials had no idea the father and son who had been living there weren't inside.

Rossell just happened to have left to go grocery shopping and was down the street when the fire broke out.

"I was at the Safeway at the Manoa Marketplace and I saw like seven or eight fire trucks come up the road -- more than I've ever seen come respond to one thing at a time. An ambulance, police cars -- everything! And I thought, 'Someone's house is burning down,' and then my phone rings and it's my neighbor and she was just sobbing saying, 'Thank goodness you're alive!' and she was saying, 'Your house is burning! Your house is on fire!!" described Rossell, who says his first thought was his dad, Mike.

"When I saw the house it was just smoldering, smoke pouring out of where my dad's room is and they said they hadn't found anyone and I thought maybe my dad was dead. Somehow, he had come outside cause he wasn't feeling good and he had sat in his car -- before any of this happened -- and he just took a nap, and he was asleep in his car."

Rossell and his dad have nothing left, but the clothes on their backs.

"This is my Dad's bedroom and as you can see it's completely gutted," said Rossell walking through what is left of the home. "There's nothing salvageable in there and if he was in there, I don't think he would've survived."

Rossell says that's not the only miracle he's grateful for.

"It's incredible seeing as how it was so windy last night that our neighbor's house didn't catch on fire too.The other neighbors' house is even closer. It's about 12 feet away from the far wall of this house. It's ridiculous that their house did not catch on fire. They're super lucky," said Rossell.

It's unclear what sparked the fire, but Rossell suspects faulty wiring -- which he says electricians have warned him about in the past, a concern he has shared several times with his landlord. He says he had a slow cooker on in the kitchen, but fire crews say they found it intact and do not believe it started the fire.

"The fire department said the house is burnt so badly and the structure is so damaged that they can't really come inside to do a real full, thorough investigation," Rossell explained, as he started picking through the charred remains.

"I've had this Les Paul since I was maybe 17 years old. This is my prized possession," Rossell said, holding up the torched guitar. "Yep, it's done."

Shockingly, a few irreplaceable mementos from Rossell's childhood survived -- pictures of his first pet, his grandma, and a birthday celebration with his mom and dad.

"I mean I'll treasure these forever now, that's for sure," Rossell said with a smile.

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