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Airmen helps prevent house from burning down

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Unless someone's trying to collect on their home insurance, a homeowner's worst nightmare is probably finding out their house went up in flames. Thanks to the quick actions of one Hill Air Force Base Airman, one home owner didn't have to live that nightmare.

"I was leaving my mom's house and we were coming back to Clearfield (from Hideaway Valley)," said Staff Sgt. Wayne Kahalekomo. "We had just got on Highway 89 and my wife noticed smoke coming out of a house. At first we thought it was fog, but as we got closer and drove by it, we saw the smoke coming out of the windows."

As soon as he realized it was smoke, Sergeant Kahalekomo made a u-turn and called 9-1-1 to give them all the information he had about the house. After he was done on the phone, he went up to the house to look in the windows to see if anyone was inside.
"After I got off the phone with (9-1-1), he asked me if there was anyone in the house, so priorities started clicking; people was first," said Sergeant Kahalekomo. "So I tried to find out if anyone was in there."

It was at this point he realized he needed to move his car so emergency vehicles could have easier access to the house. He said as he went up the driveway he saw there was a fence with a lock on it.

"I looked around and I saw a watershed, and I opened it up and saw a pick in there," Sergeant Kahalekomo said. "So I used that to bust the lock off the gate so the emergency response vehicles could come right in."

When he was done moving his car, he got a t-shirt from the back seat, ran back to the house and used a water hose to get the shirt wet. He then used the shirt to cover his nose and mouth.

Sergeant Kahalekomo said the wet cloth was a trick he learned by talking to friends who are firefighters. It is supposed to help filter out some of the smoke in the air before it enters the body.

"I ran back around to the side where there wasn't fire and kicked the door in and took about five or six steps (into the house)," he said. "As I looked in I saw the living room was just engulfed in flames; there were flames on the ceiling and climbing up the walls. I yelled again, but no one answered."

He wasn't expecting anyone to be at the house because he saw no cars in the driveway or anything, so after he yelled inside, he went back to the water hose and used it to try to put out fire on the pieces of the house that fell to the ground.

Shortly there after, the first fire truck arrived and Sergeant Kahalekomo began helping pull fire hoses off the truck.

"We were running short handed (that morning)," said Nathan Miner, chief of Fairview Fire Rescue, an all volunteer firefighting force. "He was an extra set of hands; by him helping pull hose off the truck, it freed up one of my fire fighters to put his air pack on."

Mr. Miner said that because Sergeant Kahalekomo took action as soon as he did by calling the fire in and putting out the small fires that were falling off the house, it only took fire fighters about 10 minutes to put out the fire.

The fire was likely caused by faulty electrical wiring between the basement and first floor, he said.