An early morning Nuuanu house fire forced residents out of their homes Sunday.  Nakoa Goo watched the fire rip through his neighbor's two-story home on Huene Street.

"We woke up to the smell of an electric fire. Basically the whole house was up in flames when I came outside,” Goo said. "I could feel the heat from the house. It was pretty much a big fireball.”

Forty-three firefighters battled the blaze that broke out just after 7:30 a.m. They were able to extinguish the fire about two hours later.

“Unfortunately we do have some damage to the house on the Makai side. Just to the eves. We’re just mopping up some fire in the attic. Pretty much gutted the whole downstairs and second floor of this house,” Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief John Bowers said.

The home belongs to the mother of Major General Robert Lee, the former state adjutant general, who headed the state civil defense. Major General Lee says his mother and brother will move in with family, as the 100-year-old house is gutted and needs to be rebuilt.

After his son’s alert Sardinha’s father, an off-duty firefighter, acted quickly to help get the couple out safely. “My mom knows them. We don’t want their house to burn down,” neighbor Coen Sardinha said.

Honolulu firefighters report that the home had a smoke alarm, but the alarm wasn’t working at the time. The fire is under investigation and the cause has yet to be determined. 

Fire damage is estimated at $700,000 to the structure and $11,000 to its contents. No injuries have been reported for this incident.