Late-night fire destroys Honolulu apartment unit

Published: Jun. 24, 2012 at 3:27 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2012 at 7:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Flames destroyed an apartment and left dozens of residents unable to get back into their homes Saturday night. Crews from the Honolulu Fire Department battled the blaze at the Pacific Grand Condominium building near the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Brandon Marc Higa returned to his apartment Sunday morning. He was surprised when he walked through the door because other than the water damage and a heavy stench of smoke, most of his belongings were spared. That's not what he expected to see, because on the other side of his door is his neighbors charred room.

"I look over to my right and I see my neighbors unit completely on fire," said Brandon Marc Higa, "not just a little bit but a lot and his windows were cracking and pretty much crashing down so there's no question that his whole apartment was on fire by the time I noticed it."

Higa says that happened shortly after 10 p.m on Saturday. The heavy smoke coming from the eighth floor unit prompted residents to evacuate but several of them told us they didn't hear any alarms and it took a while for them to figure out what was going on.

"I was out on the lanai and looked what was going on and the smoke was getting thicker," said Darren Mon, "it was getting hard to breathe so that's when I decided to evacuate."

Darren Mon lives on the 19th floor and like dozens of others, used the fire escape to get to safety.

"I didn't hear the alarms ringing until maybe about the ninth or seventh floor," said Mon.

On top of what residents say are faulty alarms, the building also lacks a fire sprinkler system. Officials tell us that fire crews managed to put the blaze out within an hour. They were also able to keep the flames from spreading to other units. The tenant who lives there was not home at the time and no one was hurt.

"Initially they said you can't go back into your unit but eventually they let people above the ninth floor go back in to collect their belongings and eventually spend the night," said Higa.

The remaining residents were let back in a couple of hours later. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Structural damage was estimated at $100,000 and lost contents amount to about $20,000.

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