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Pahala Information Update for June 14th, 2020

One person injured and another person unaccounted for a fire that destroys a residence in Pahala Saturday afternoon (June 13th)

Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Holualoa/Hilo) Team


The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD) responded to a report of a residential structure fire that started Saturday afternoon (June 13th) in Pahala, Ka'u.

The initial call came in at 1:22 pm Saturday afternoon and HFD crews from the Pahala and Volcano Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, volunteers from the Pahala Station, and HPD officers from the Ka'u Patrol responded to the scene located at the 96-1700 block of Kamani Street in Pahala.

Upon the arrival of emergency crews, numerous residents throughout the Pahala community reported heavy black smoke coming from a residence (described two-story family dwelling with carport) located on Kamani Street. HFD crews from the Pahala station also reported heavy black smoke sighted and coming from a residence up the street from the Pahala Fire Station and responded immediately after reporting it HFD Dispatch. Neighbors were not able to confirm if the occupants of the structure had safely evacuated. However, one occupant safely exited the residence and one person (described as an elderly female) was unaccounted for and believed to still be in the residence.

Once emergency crews arrived at the scene, HFD crews reported the garage of the residence was fully engulfed and beginning to spread into the second story of the residence. HFD crews went into an offensive fire attack initially, however, due to conditions posed during the fire attack, HFD crews later went into a defensive fire attack to prevent fire spread to neighboring structures. HFD crews had the fire under control hours later and were on scene through the evening completing salvaging and overhaul operations.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation and at this time the one occupant of the structure remains unaccounted for.


Details on the incident and history on the residence from Ka'ū Calendar:

The house is across from the Community Center and gas station. Neighbors said they believed that Mrs. Eufemia Cruz was trapped inside. They tried to break in, but the fire raged quickly to engulf the house. Firefighters, less than a block away, rushed to the scene and put down the inferno in a stiff wind. With smoke billowing through the village, firefighters and neighbors doused adjacent houses and saved them, the community center, and gas station.

The Cruz house was gutted. Her son Orlando Cruz, who also lived there, was able to escape with some burns treated at Ka‘ū Hospital.

Mrs. Cruz was known for her Filipino pastries and banana bread, still making them well into her 90s. She cooked them on Saturday mornings in her basement and sold them in the afternoons, a driver taking her around town.

Community members around the scene described her as the area's last living Sakada, who came here on a ship from the Philippines to work and live in Hawaiʻi in 1946.

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