The first emergency call about the fire took place at 2:17 p.m., and firefighters were still working to put it out more than five hours later. Investigators said the fire broke out in unit 2602, on the 26th floor, and damaged or destroyed about 200 of the building’s 568 units.
The Honolulu Fire Department said more than 120 firefighters — or about one-third of the department — responded to the seven-alarm blaze. The fire did more than $100 million in damage, according to the department.
Four people died as a result of the fire:
- Britt Reller, 54
- Melba Jeannine Dilley, 85
- Joanna Kuwata, 71
- Marilyn Van Gieson, 81
Building Safety Problems
Sprinklers Never Installed
The building, constructed in 1971, did not have a sprinkler system, which fire officials said would have undoubtedly quickly stopped the blaze and prevented it from spreading. The state fire code was updated in 1975 to require sprinkler systems in high rise structures, but efforts to force pre-1975 era buildings to meet the code were defeated in the face of strong lobbying by building associations and others who said the retrofits would be too costly.
Several residents of the building said they didn’t hear alarms go off during the fire or didn’t realize what they were hearing. A 2013 report by the engineering firm S.S. Dannaway found the building’s fire alarms were outdated. Alarms in the units weren’t loud enough, the report said, and the firm recommended adding speakers in the main living areas and bedrooms of every condominium. The updates were never made.
More than two months after the fire, the Honolulu Fire Department had yet to release its final report on the investigation. Department spokesperson Capt. David Jenkins said the severity of the fire and the fact that more than 100 firefighters were involved contributed to the length of time it was taking to complete the report.
Officials declined to say what caused the fire until the report was released, but Jenkins said there was no indication the fire was set intentionally or caused by cooking.