'It’s going to save lives:’ Sprinkler system stops flames from spreading in Waikiki high-rise blaze

Hundreds were evacuated after the fire broke out on the 30th floor of the building.
Residents and guests were evacuated as a result of the fire.
Residents and guests were evacuated as a result of the fire.(Toni/Wills Schmarr (custom credit))
Published: Nov. 18, 2018 at 11:47 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Fire Department says an automated fire sprinkler system stopped the flames from spreading in a blaze at a high-rise in Waikiki late Friday night.

Firefighters responded to a blaze around 10:50 p.m. and no injuries were reported.

Some 22 personnel responded to the 38-story Waikiki Baynan complex on Ohua Avenue.

HFD credits an automated fire sprinkler system with containing the flames to the original unit on the 30th floor of the building.

Hundreds were evacuated after the fire broke out.

“It was pretty orderly. We just went to the fire exit and opened the door and joined the crowd and walked down the stairs,” resident Sheila Palmer said.

It took firefighters less than 40 minutes to completely extinguish the flames.

“One adult male and female were alerted to the fire by an audible pop and the activation of a smoke alarm. They safely escaped the unit without injuries,” HFD officials said. “Another adult male was not in the unit at the time of the fire."

Meanwhile, fire officials spoke to condo owners and building managers Saturday about the city’s new fire safety ordinance, which passed this May.

It’s a measure intended to avoid deadly fires like the one that broke out in the Marco Polo building in July of 2017.

“The ordinance is very important,” said Kevin Mokulehua, who works for HFD. “We want everyone to remain focused on the intent of having sprinklers: it’s going to save lives; they’re going to save property; and they’re going to allow occupants to get out of a building if there is a fire.”

There are exceptions to the ordinance, but most high-rise residential buildings would need to be retro-fitted with automatic sprinkler systems.

“One of our buildings is below the high-rise standard and one of our buildings is above the high-rise standard so it needs to have those laws applied,” said Thomas Ebner, manager for the Ka Hale Moi condominiums.

He knows just how costly adding sprinklers can be, but agrees with the ordinance.

“The association will have to cover that I am sure, it’s all for the better," Ebner said. “You need to make sure that everybody is very happy and very safe.”

Fire investigators say Friday’s fire was accidental, sparked by an electrical electrical failure in the microwave.

Total damages to the building and its contents were estimated at $320,000.

“HFD would like to encourage our visitors and residents to discuss and practice their fire evacuation plans. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” officials added.

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