Fire claims Lanai house and several cars

Courtesy:  Merrylou Ilustrado
Courtesy: Merrylou Ilustrado

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A home in Lanai City burned to the ground this morning, and neighbors reported hearing loud explosions.

About two hours ago fire investigators were with the homeowner trying to find out exactly how and where the fire started.

But neighbors report seeing the fire start from a Hummer parked in the driveway, before it quickly spread to the rest of the home.

Pete Tolentino saw his house in flames when he came home around 7:30 Saturday morning, after running a quick errand and getting a phone call from his neighbors that his house was on fire.

“The garage area was in flames already,” Tolentino said. “Everything is gone already, my house is totaled.”

Neighbors could see it from blocks away.

“I saw these enormous clouds of black, black smoke in the air,” neighbor Joana Varawa said. “It was a pretty scary situation for a while and there were the sounds of a few explosions that were probably gas cans.”

Along with the house that was completely totaled, three cars were also destroyed.

Tolentino says he had a lot of cars parked in front of his home because the former Lanai High School shop teacher would make auto repairs.

“Bystanders that witnessed or reported it, noticed it started at one of the cars and spread to the structure from there,” Maui County Fire Department Capt. Bram Denhaan said.

He says he was in the middle of fixing a Hummer, leaving several lines, including the fuel line disconnected last night, and was planning to finish the job today.

“The only thing would ignite if someone tried to start the car and turn the ignition,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino, who lives alone, did say he left the keys in the ignition, but has no idea of who tried to start the car.

“I didn’t have insurance on the house, because it got denied because I do mechanic work,” Tolentino added.

In the meantime, all he has left with are the clothes on his back.

“I’ll survive,” Tolentino said. “It’s only material things. Emotionally wise, I’m kind of depressed, but I’ll survive.”

Luckily there were no reported injuries.

The Red Cross will be offering Tolentino some temporary assistance to get through the next few days.

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