By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Daniel Taka Sr. and his wife, Charlotte, were attending a wedding in Waimea when their Waiakea Uka home was destroyed by fire on Saturday night.
“When when we came home, that’s what it was, like this already,” he said and laughed ruefully Monday morning as he surveyed the rubble that was once the family’s home of 45 years. Daniel Taka, who’s retired from the county Department of Water Supply, said his children tried calling when they were notified about the fire, but the couple couldn’t hear their cell phones ring because of the music.
“Finally, they got in touch with us and we came home,” he said. “But it was already like this.”
Taka built the single-story ranch-style home in 1968 on land he inherited from his family.
“I started designing this house, myself, way back when. A lot of memories are here,” he said.
Charlotte Taka said family heirlooms and sentimental items saved over 53 years of marriage were wiped out by the blaze, which Fire Department officials said caused about $200,000 in damage.
“We have cards that we made for each other and the kids made things in school. All those things I had in a drawer. I had love letters from when we were younger. All those things that I love looking at, all gone,” she said. “A lot of personal things lost. It’s very, very tough on us. We lost everything. But I’m glad nobody was in the house, nobody was around.”
The Takas have five children, 18 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“So much memories and we’re never gonna get those back, except in my heart. But we have a supportive family and that helps a lot,” Charlotte Taka said.
Nine units responded to the 8:45 p.m. alarm and battled the blaze, but to no avail. The few charred posts left standing held up remnants of the corrugated metal roof. Fortunately, a portable propane gas tank near the house didn’t explode, or the fire could have consumed the surrounding trees and perhaps spread to neighboring homes.
“I was surprised,” Daniel Taka said. “I had a couple of gas burners outside, you know, the kind you take camping.”
The home is insured, and the family’s agent, Nelson Fukuhara, was there taking photos to document the damage on Monday morning. Fukuhara said he was told by a fire inspector that the blaze appeared to be electrical in nature.
“They brought the (accelerant-sniffing) dog through here,” he said.
There were downed utility lines on the property still connected to a roadside pole. Fukuhara said the lines had been deactivated.
Charlotte Taka called the loss of the family home “a shocker.”
“I know the house is old, but still, we maintained it pretty good inside,” she said. “We’re gonna have to cut down some of the trees and rebuild. Nelson said, ‘We’re gonna get you a new house.’”
Fukuhara said that although the Takas can rebuild, “nothing can replace sentimental value.”
Charlotte Taka said “thanks to Nelson,” the couple is in a hotel for now. Local American Red Cross volunteers also responded to assist, the organization stated in a written release.
The Red Cross encourages all families to make a disaster plan to include an evacuation plan with two different routes of escape, a communications plan to help families reconnect after disaster and a disaster supplies kit that is readily available to aid in a quick evacuation. Information on developing a family plan is available at www.redcross.org, or by calling (808) 734-2101.
The non-profit humanitarian organization provides free assistance to meet the immediate emergency needs of those affected by disasters. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it depends on public contributions to help others. Contributions can be mailed to: American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter, 55 Ululani St., Hilo, HI 96720. Donations can also be made online at www.hawaiiredcross.org or by phone at (808) 739-8133.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.