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Monday, June 5, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
A demolition crewman works in the Interstate Building, where
three floors must be gutted to rout mold and fungus
caused by water damage.

Water damage
repair to oust
Interstate firms

At least three floors of the
fire-damaged building
must be gutted

By Steve Murray


Owners and tenants of the fire-damaged Interstate Building have been told that at least three floors will have to be gutted.

Environmental tests show extensive mold and fungus infestation in the walls of the 14th and 15th floors of the 16-story building. Hugh Granger of HP Environmental, the company doing the testing, said mold and fungus commonly grow after fires are extinguished with water.

The growth poses no health risks to tenants, he said.

Demolition crews will have to take out damaged walls and ceilings, said Calvin Oki, the building manager. Work began on the 16th floor soon after the April 1 fire.

Arson has been ruled out as the cause of the fire, at 1314 S. King St., said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo. The cause is still being investigated by the fire department and insurance company.

The fire was one of the worst in Oahu's history, with 24 fire trucks responding and 11 firefighters injured.

The fire caused an estimated $1 million damage to the building and several million dollars' damage to offices and interior equipment. The top floor was destroyed, while water damage reached down to the ground floor.

The Interstate Building is an office condominium housing 130 businesses. About 12 to 17 percent of the tenants have had to relocate because of the fire, Oki said.

Only one occupant remains on the 15th floor and two on the 14th floor, and those businesses will have to relocate during renovation. Tenants on other floors could be affected as well, possibly as far down as the 10th floor, Oki said.

The final damage report is expected to be finished by Friday.

B.Y. Realty Management owner Steve Saito, the only remaining tenant on the 15th floor, said he believes tenants have not been kept informed of the progress of repairs. He also said he feels rushed into moving, even though he has not yet found a new office.

Mel Shinsatu, of J.S. Aloha Travel Agency on the 14th floor, agrees that information about the building's repair has occasionally been slow coming.

But he added,"We understand the amount of damage that was done and that they are trying to expedite things."

He is hopeful that his business will be able to return to the building in six months.

Oki said repair contractors will coordinate repair work with occupants, which include both owners and renters.

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