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Man found in North Kona fatal house fire ID’d

Updated: 
November 14, 2017 - 12:05am

KALAOA — Authorities have identified a man found dead in a North Kona house fire earlier this month.

The body of Wayne Perry, 53, of Kalaoa, North Kona, was discovered in the downstairs portion of the home after fire crews extinguished the blaze on Nov. 3 on Oluolu Street in Kona Highlands subdivision.

The Hawaii Fire Department received the call of a structure fire at 6:10 a.m. When firefighters arrived on scene, the backside of the house was engulfed in flames. Battalion Chief John Whitman said when they first arrived there was no one reported to be home at the time.

The victim was found later near where the fire originated, Whitman said.

Hawaii Police Department Major Robert Wagner said Perry’s identity was determined through dental records. The cause of death was reported to be smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

On Monday, yellow tape blocked the home’s driveway and a large piece of cardboard was propped up by the house’s fence with black words that read: “Keep out.”

Few neighbors were out, but Sean Hilla, who lives across the street from Perry, was home. He was one of the first responders to the fire before the firefighters arrived.

Over the weekend, Hilla said, a church or community group was at the house hauling stuff from the home and loading it into vans.

“Everyone was really quiet and somber,” Hilla said.

Hilla added that a relative came to his home over the weekend and thanked him for everything.

“They were really nice,” he said.

Hilla was awake early on Nov. 3 as he was prepping for a day trip to Maunakea with his brother, Ryan Gerwig, who was visiting from out of town.

Hilla and Gerwig were watching the moon set when the fire erupted before their eyes. Grabbing their shoes, they ran to the house.

Gerwig, an off-duty firefighter from Boca Raton, Florida, kicked in the front door and did a sweep of the first floor to make sure no one was trapped. Hilla said he got some neighbors to get out garden hoses and start soaking down the neighboring house.

As the brothers went into the next-door neighbor’s yard to access the back of the house, they were met with a wall of heat.

“There was no getting in there without jeopardizing our own safety,” Gerwig said of the downstairs portion of the house.

Gerwig and his brother stepped back once fire crews arrived. They provided a statement, then went on to Maunakea.

“It was the fastest fire I’ve ever seen,” Hilla said Monday.

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