City Council defers bill to require installation of fire sprinklers in high-rises

City Council defers bill to require installation of fire sprinklers in high-rises

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The push for mandatory fire sprinklers in residential high-rises is put on hold after the Honolulu City Council voted to defer the bill on Tuesday.

During a public hearing with the council's Executive Matters and Legislative Affairs Committee, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the Honolulu Fire Department presented a video hoping it would compel members to push Bill 69 forward.

The video showed two shipping containers, set up as separate bedrooms, both lit on fire.

One was equipped with a fire sprinkler, while the other container shown burning out of control, was not.

"I can't think of a more horrific death than to be burned alive," said Caldwell. "It's going to be tough in finding fairness and balance in this, it's going to be difficult, but it's really worthwhile."

The mayor proposed mandatory sprinklers in high-rise buildings built before 1975, after three people died in the massive Marco Polo fire in July. The building was not equipped with fire sprinklers and the blaze caused more than $100 million in damage.

Critics are concerned about the costs of added regulations on condo owners.

"The cost of retrofitting these older buildings is just huge," said Jane Sugimura, president of the Hawaii Council of Association of Apartment Owners. "You're talking millions of dollars and I can tell you that nobody has money in their budget to pay for retrofitting."

Other high-rise residents say safety beats out cost.

"It makes you think every time you get in the elevator and you go past three floors, what would you do?" said Shannon Patalano who lives at the Waipuna Condos in Waikiki. "How would you escape?"

The council unanimously voted to delay the bill until a special fire safety committee releases a report at the end of October detailing recommendations.

Chair Ron Menor also said it's vital the council learns the cause of the Marco Polo blaze before moving ahead, but HFD said it could be another month until the investigation is complete.

Some councilmembers will hold a public meeting tentatively set for September 16th to give the community more opportunities to voice their opinions on the fire sprinkler retrofit bill.

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