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Saturday, April 1, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Smoke pours out of a 16th floor office today on
King Street near Keeaumoku. Bystanders on the
ground were kept away to avoid broken glass. As
firefighters smashed windows to create ventilation.
Tenants of the burned offices were listed as Lee
Sands Hawaii and Honolulu Puka Shell
Exchange, the Fire Department said.

wage battle on
16th floor

Two require treatment in
the 3 1/2-hour blaze atop the
Interstate Building

By Helen Altonn


One-third of Honolulu's firefighting force was called to battle a six-alarm fire this morning that engulfed the corner offices of the top floor of the 16-story Interstate Building.

The fire was declared under control just before noon.

No injuries were reported among the occupants, but a fire captain and at least one firefighter were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation treatment. Other firefighters were treated at the scene, at 1314 S. King St. near Keeaumoku Street.

"They are stable but they had a significant amount of carbon monoxide," said Capt. Richard Soo, Honolulu Fire Department information officer.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Firefighter Kevin Holderead takes some oxygen
as a paramedic tends to him after fighting the
Interstate Building fire.

"This is a real hard fire," he said. "It is real tedious."

He said the exit stairwells with the water hoses were on the opposite side of the building.

Many offices had deadbolts, blocking easy entry, and firefighters couldn't use the elevators, forcing them to walk up to the 16th floor, he said.

Also, Soo said, "The windy weather is allowing whatever is in there to combust."

Flames and smoke were shooting out of the corner of the building for hours after the fire started at about 8:25 a.m. People could smell the smoke many blocks away.

Spectators and nearby business people were kept to the side of the fire scene to avoid flying ash and broken glass. Firefighters were breaking windows to create ventilation.

Soo said the burning offices were listed as Lee Sands Hawaii and Honolulu Puka Shell Exchange, both in the 1650 suite.

There were unconfirmed reports that chemicals may have ignited the blaze.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
A firefighter is wheeled out of the Interstate
Building during the fire. At least one fireman
and one fire captain were treated in a hospital
for smoke inhalation.

Early this morning, one firefighter wasn't accounted for, which caused serious concern, but he was found later.

The first batch of firefighters was brought out for oxygen, water and rest after about 1 1/2 hours. "We have to function guys in and out as the structure fire is evolving," Soo said.

Bill Harris, among the first firefighters in the building, said they found the whole corner burning, but "we got into the room."

Traffic was blocked in the area around the building bordered by King, Young, Piikoi and Keeaumoku streets, said Lt. Kurt Kendro.

The Fire Department had about 56 firefighters and two batallion chiefs at the scene with seven fire engines, three ladder trucks, one snorkel and one rescue unit and one hazardous materials unit.

Five ambulances and at least 15 policemen were there.

Kylen Iha, chiropractor on the sixth floor of the Interstate Building, 1314 S. King St., and his friend, Sheri Yoshida, thought it was a joke when they heard a fire alarm about 8:20 a.m. today.

"Then we smelled something burning," Ishida said. They began leaving the building and saw others heading for the exits, Iha said.

Fumihiko Indei and his wife, Elaine, who operate the Shiatsu Therapy Aisen Shiatsu School on the sixth floor of the building, said five employees and five clients were there when the alarm went off.

"We just came out," Elaine Indei said. Fumihiko Indei pointed out that he didn't even take time to change his pink rubber slippers.

Les Katekaru, owner of the building at 1301 King St., across from the Interstate Building, became concerned when he saw ash flying onto the roof of his structure.

Loving Farias, who manages the Trophy House on the first floor of Katekaru's building, also was worried.

Firefighters examining the building said smoke from the fire had gone into the sewer line and was coming back up from underground.

Farias said she was working when she smelled smoke and heard fire trucks arrive.

"I could just see smoke coming out of the top office, then flames. That's it," Katekaru added.

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