Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Friday called for legislation requiring the retrofitting of older residential high-rises with fire sprinklers after a blaze in Honolulu killed three people.
“I think it’s something that deserves serious consideration and review,” he told reporters.
The fire engulfed units on at least two floors of the Marco Polo Apartments on Kapiolani Boulevard. Because the building was built in 1971, it wasn’t required to have any fire sprinklers.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the high-rise was the scene of another fire in 2013 that caused $1.15 million worth of damage but didn’t result in any deaths.
Large fires have historically prompted state and city officials to suggest requiring older residential high-rises to install fire sprinklers. But the effort is often unsuccessful because doing so is expensive.
In 2000, a fire at the Interstate Building on King Street prompted calls to require older commercial buildings to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers. At the time, the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that 35 commercial structures and 312 residential complexes did not have sprinkler systems.
Two apartment fires in 2005 fueled the debate again, with then-Mayor Mufi Hannemann urging the city to require older high-rises to install fire sprinklers.
State lawmakers haven’t debated the issue of fire sprinklers in older high rises recently. But they did vote this year to extend a law that prohibits counties from requiring owners of single-family or duplex homes to add sprinklers, heeding concerns that such regulation would drive up the cost of housing.
The measure became law June 23 despite opposition from the State Fire Council.
Anthony Quintano contributed to this report.
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