After fire, couple orders up a new house
Prefab structure was built in California, then moved
KIHEI — A Kihei couple who lost their home on Christmas Eve 2015 received a gift they had been waiting for all year on Wednesday.
Sandy Farmer-Wiley and Jean Walker watched construction workers move two pieces of their new home onto their property on Kauhale Street. Less than a year ago, the married couple watched fire gut their home and destroy most of their belongings.
“It’s beautiful. I couldn’t believe it,” Farmer-Wiley said. “I think we’re going to love this house.”
The approximately 1,440-square-foot Fabmac home, built in a warehouse in California, was driven to the lot on two flatbed trucks from the Fabmac baseyard near Kahului Airport. It will take workers 30 to 45 days to put the house together and finish the interior and exterior before the couple is handed the keys.
“If it’s before Christmas, that would be fabulous,” Farmer-Wiley said.
The couple had been attending church services when the Dec. 24 fire started. They rushed home only to find it in flames and thousands of dollars’ worth of artwork, clothing, appliances and personal belongings destroyed.
Insurance has covered the cost of the home, but the couple is paying $70,000 to add another bedroom and bathroom. Their insurance was not renewed after the fire, but they were able to find another provider.
Farmer-Wiley said she is still making a list of items lost in the blaze to be covered by the original insurer. However, most of the belongings were priceless mementos. Items that survived the fire were taken to a warehouse with Premier Restoration Hawaii where it took six weeks to deodorize the smell of smoke before the items could be cleaned.
“Some of the stuff they thought they could save, they couldn’t,” Farmer-Wiley said.
Aside from art and sculptures they had acquired for half a century, they lost about 300 T-shirts collected over the last 35 years from events on the Mainland and Hawaii.
“They’re not going to believe that when it goes into the insurance,” Farmer-Wiley said. “Who has 300 T-shirts?”
Farmer-Wiley also had an extensive collection of Star Trek memorabilia, including autographed photos and books from actors Rene Auberjonois, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei.
“Going through the stuff that’s left — it’s almost as sad as watching the fire,” she said.
The couple was grateful to friends who referred them to Maui Sunset condos, but they’re eager to move into their more spacious home. Friends have offered to sell or give them furniture, utensils and other items.
“People were warning us to just settle in because it could take up to two years plus,” Farmer-Wiley said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t think I could live in that little condo for that long.’ “
“Probably one of us would survive that and the other would get a small place to live,” Walker joked.
Walker said she is looking forward to moving home, but the couple will still need a bed, nightstand, cabinets, bookcases and other furnishings. They have a dining room set with chairs, a futon and one set of sheets, among a few other things.
“Oh ho, you bet,” Walker said. “It’s time. It’s been long enough and it’ll be a little while longer, but I’m sure we’ll be in soon enough.”
It is unclear what started the fire last year. Farmer-Wiley said the Maui Fire Department inspector called it inconclusive.
She said a secondary inspector hired by the insurance company believed it was electrical, but could not pinpoint the source.
Neighbors and members of the Keawala’i Church in Makena have supported the couple since the fire through online fundraisers, donations and organized meals. Several stood on the property Wednesday morning to watch the new home arrive.
“I cried,” Cindy Mead said. “They have been waiting for this for so long, and it’s going to be nice. They’re going to have a little more space and it’s going to be all new.”
Mead, who is chairwoman of the church’s Hui Malama O’ Keawala’i, said the group has been keeping tabs on the couple and providing help when needed.
“The church really cares a lot about them and loves them,” she said.
The couple plans to have a housewarming party for the neighborhood and church along with decorations and a tree when they finally move in. They also plan to attend Christmas Eve service, despite some understandable fears.
“It’ll be scary leaving the house for Christmas again, but . . . the church has been so good to us — it really is our spiritual home,” Farmer-Wiley said.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.