Up in flames: 5 escape structure fire at American Self Storage

  • Hawaii Fire Department personnel investigate a fire at Great American Self Storage on Tuesday morning. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A window is bunt out in the Great American Self Storage manager's resident. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Second story manager's residence at Great American Self Storage is destroyed by fire. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Fire damages a vent on the manager's resident at Great American Self Storage. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Water damage in the first floor office is seen after a fire ripped through the second floor manager's residence at Great American Self Storage. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Second story manager's residence at Great American Self Storage is destroyed by fire. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — A morning structure fire at American Self Storage on Loloku Street has left the onsite manager and her husband homeless.

“You never think it’s gonna happen to you,” said manager Kat Rauch Tuesday morning. “Never in a million years did I think I would go through a house fire.”

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The fire occurred on the second floor of the two-story structure at the storage facility in Kailua-Kona. The Rauchs, who live on the second floor of the building, were sound asleep when they were awoken by a fire alarm about 1:30 a.m.

“When I opened the bedroom door I got hit with heat and smoke,” said John Rauch, Kat’s husband.

At that point, John recalls yelling: “Get out!”

“We ran out with just the clothes on our backs,” John said. “We were making it down the stairs as the fire followed us out.”

Kat and John had relatives staying with them at the time – two adults and a 13-month-old baby. Everyone made it out safely, including the couple’s two dogs.

“If we hadn’t woken up or hesitated, we would’ve been trapped in the back,” Kat said.

After calling 911, Kat and John said it felt like it took hours for fire crews to respond. According to the Hawaii Fire Department, the first call came in at 1:48 a.m. The first unit arrived on scene at 2:01 a.m.

Crews from Kailua-Kona, Keauhou, Makalei, Captain Cook and South Kohala responded to the scene.

According to fire officials, heavy fire was evident from the lanai and living area of the structure, which has a downstairs office and is connected to the commercial self-storage facility.

The release states firefighters were able to stop the flames from spreading, which remained contained to the upstairs residential unit. Crews were able to salvage items from the downstairs office area and move them to a nearby available storage area.

The blaze was extinguished by 2:45 a.m.

From clothes to wedding photos, Kat said the fire took it all.

“Everything we own just went up in flames,” she said.

The Red Cross responded to assist Kat, John and their house guests. However, when they tried to get a hotel room Tuesday morning, Kat said there was nothing available so they slept in an open storage unit.

The approximate value of the building is $500,000 with damage estimated at $275,000, including personal items and contents.

The fire is not believed to be suspicious, however, its cause remains under investigation.

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On Tuesday, Kat wanted to reassure the storage tenants that their property was secure and she and her husband were safe. She added that if any of the tenants needed to contact her, she is still reachable on her cellphone.

“This place is my baby,” she said. “We are an ohana here.”