WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Fire Department investigators are looking into the cause of high rise fire at Waikiki condo.
Residents captured their moment of fear on cell phones taking video and pictures of the flames that shot out from a ninth floor lanai at the Monte Vista Condos around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.
"Big balls of black smoke just rushing out of the ninth floor," said Justin Yale who lives on the 10th floor.
"My Dad was looking out the window at the time, and saw the smoke coming out," said 14th floor resident Andrew Zane. "He yelled 'fire' and a couple of our neighbors kind of heard it too and we ran out at the same time."
Brian Navarrete's phone was ringing off the hook and his roommate woke him up on the 15th floor.
"It was just a bunch of commotion until we realized we had to get out," said Navarrete.
Navarrete said people fled down the stairs to the exits.
"Everybody had courtesy for each other," Navarrete added. "Nobody was trampling on each other."
A man, woman and child escaped the flames from inside the burning two-bedroom unit along with another adult. The unidentified woman told me at the scene that they were asleep when the fire broke out. The American Red Cross is assisting them since the fire damaged their home.
Honolulu Fire Captain Terry Seelig said two alarm companies were dispatched at 6:44 a.m. and arrived on scene at 6:48 a.m. getting the fire under control by 7:16 a.m. They didn't need the second alarm since the first company knocked the fire down pretty well.
Seelig said the burning unit's occupants were already out when firefighters arrived. He said two of the unit's occupants were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, but nothing life threatening or serious that they needed to be taken to a hospital.
At least three other building residents were also treated by paramedics at the scene. Two of those individuals were spotted receiving oxygen at the scene.
It was an eye opening experience for the Monte Vista high rise residents, many who have never had to evacuate a high for a fire before.
"It's a pretty scary kind of a thought that maybe this fire can spread, that it could burn partial part of the building, someone could get hurt," said Zane.
To help firefighters, high rises are equipped with what's called a DSP, or Dry Stand Pipe System. It allows firefighters to hook up their water pumpers an push that water up to the floor they need to access. New high rises, said Seelig, also have what's called a Wet Stand Pipe system or WSP that is already full of water that usually feeding the sprinkler or other cabinet fire hoses inside the building.
Firefighters at the Monte Vista did not have to use the DSP system today, instead they utilized another water line inside to battle the blaze, called a "house line."
"They had it contained within 10 minutes, largely because of a quick assessment and knock down with the house line," added Seelig.
An automated sprinkler system can help said Seelig, but there are none inside the Monte Vista.
"The building was built before automatic sprinkler systems were a requirement," said Seelig. "All new high rise buildings, high buildings of any kind of occupancy require that for quite a while now. But not older residential buildings said Seelig.
"There's been retrofit of hotels and commercial buildings but never residential."
Cost is the prohibitive factor according to Seelig.
"It is expensive but its also very effective," he said. "It will keep a fire contained to an area that it originated and prevent loss of life as well as a lot of damage."
Damages are estimated at $135,000.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.