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Friday, April 14, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

Fire officials pitch
retrofit to Council

The department wants to
see commercial and residential
high-rises both required to
have updated sprinkler systems

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


There are 347 high-rises on Oahu that do not have sprinkler systems -- 35 commercial structures and 312 residential condominiums and apartment buildings, according to the Honolulu Fire Department.

All told, there are 655 high-rise buildings. Honolulu Fire officials told the City Council Planning and Public Safety Committee today that they estimate it will cost $3 to $4 a square foot to retrofit those buildings.

In response to the fire at the Interstate Building on April 1, City Council members have introduced three bills to require older commercial buildings to retrofit their buildings with sprinklers and fire safety devices.

HFD Deputy Chief John Clark said the Interstate blaze likely would have been confined to the room where it started had there been sprinklers. Instead, the entire 16th floor was destroyed, 11 firefighters required medical treatment, and extensive damage occurred in the rest of the building.

No bills have yet been introduced to address retrofitting residential high-rises, but Council members said they may be forthcoming.

The Council required hotels to put in sprinklers in 1983, following a serious hotel fire in Las Vegas.

Fire officials said they sought to include residential and commercial buildings in the ordinance but that the Council failed to do so following strong protests from building owners.

Fire Department officials made it clear today that they want to see both commercial and residential buildings retrofitted, showing a video that compared fires in apartments with and without sprinklers.

A high-rise building, for city fire and building code purposes, is defined as being 75 feet or higher. Existing firetruck ladders cannot reach heights beyond that.

Officials with both the Building Owners and Managers Association and the Hawaii Council of Associations of Condominium Owners have questioned the feasibility of retrofitting older buildings in a down economy.

E-mail to City Desk

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