‘It was a fireball within 5 minutes’

Blaze guts Maui Meadows house; 7 displaced by fire

Maui Fire Department Battalion Chief Wayne Cambra runs up Kehala Drive as a house fire is brought under control Wednesday in Maui Meadows. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Next-door neighbor Carlo Alioto said a Maui Meadows house fire Wednesday started with smaller flames and escalated into a “fireball” within minutes.

It moved fast, sweeping through the top level of the two-story house, leaving multiple tenants uninjured but displaced.

“It was a fireball within five minutes,” Alioto said. “It was just amazing. There were tenants on the bottom floor, running out of the building, crying, just so upset. They were besides themselves. It happened so quick.”

At 10:51 a.m., the Maui Fire Department received a call of a two-story residence on fire on Kehala Drive, said Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro. Fire crews from Wailea, Kihei and Kahului responded to the blaze.

It was declared under control at 11:55 a.m., Yatsushiro said.

Firefighters mop up Wednesday after a fire caused extensive damage to a two-story home on Kehala Drive in Maui Meadows.

Fire personnel confirmed that all occupants evacuated safely prior to their arrival, and no injuries were reported.

The cause of fire is being investigated, and damage estimates were not available Wednesday afternoon, said Yatsushiro.

Alioto was in the home office of his single-story residence about 40 feet from the fire. The smoke wasn’t what first caught his attention, he said.

“The first thing was that I heard something,” Alioto said. “I heard the crackling. You could hear everything popping and crackling. I looked over . . . and saw huge smoke and a little bit of flames.”

He called 911 and went outside. Within five minutes, “everything was engulfed,” he said.

Kehala Drive is jammed with first responders’ vehicles Wednesday morning as smoke billows from a burning Maui Meadows home.

Alioto said the owner of the home resides off-site, but about 10 people live in the multi-dwelling residence. Yatsushiro said seven people were displaced by the fire, and the American Red Cross said it was assisting four adults and two teenagers impacted by the fire.

The fire left the top of the house gutted. Also, multiple vehicles sustained severe damage, Alioto added.

The Red Cross said Wednesday that it was helping displaced residents with immediate needs for food, shelter and clothing, and caseworkers will follow up with those impacted by the fire to provide additional help with the recovery process. 

A father and son, both of whom reside at the Maui Meadows home hit by the fire and who work at Fred’s Mexican Cafe in Kihei, are the beneficiaries of an in-house donation effort at the restaurant, server Kristina Medeiros said Wednesday night. Manager Jake Perry and his staff are setting up a GoFundMe page for the two and hope to launch it soon, she said.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.