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Sprinklers cut fire losses


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POSTED: Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Honolulu residential high-rise fire could have been a lot worse had it not been controlled by a sprinkler system, a fire official said yesterday.

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“;It kept it from doing a lot more damage,”; said Capt. Terry Seelig, spokesman of the Honolulu Fire Department. “;There was only some smoldering and a lot of smoke when firefighters arrived.”;

Investigators determined the fire that occurred on the 26th floor of Kukui Tower was intentionally set.

A 37-year-old man who lives a few blocks away from the building was arrested on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder. Police are continuing their investigation.

At about 5:15 a.m., police said, a man knocked on the front door of a unit of the building at 35 N. Kukui St. He poured an unknown accelerant under the door and ignited it, police said, causing a 19-year-old male resident who lives in the unit to suffer burns to his legs.

Police said the suspect also suffered burns caused by accelerant that pooled around his legs.

The victim and his family members—a 15-year-old boy, 41-year-old woman and 48-year-old man—took refuge in a rear bedroom when the fire occurred. All were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns. Police said the suspect was also taken to the hospital for treatment for his burns.

Two other people who suffered from smoke exposure were treated by paramedics at the scene.

The hallways at the 32-floor residential high-rise, built in 1976, had sprinkler systems. In 1975 all new high-rises were required to have a sprinkler system under a city ordinance.

Seelig said the fire started outside the unit's front door and extended into the apartment. The sprinkler system, however, was activated and controlled the fire. The system was crucial in preventing further injuries and additional damage to the building, said Seelig.

Damage was estimated at $70,000 to the structure and its contents.