The Marco Polo building was constructed in 1971, before fire sprinklers were required in high-rises. Fire officials say sprinklers would have prevented flames from spreading.
It’s one of the worst fires in modern Honolulu history, Jenkins said.
Some residents told The Associated Press they had trouble hearing sirens and didn’t realize there was fire raging until opening their doors.
They also said there was no public announcement or flashing alarm lights in the building when the fire began.
“It didn’t sound quite like a normal traditional fire alarm,” said Air Force cyber technician Cory La Roe, who didn’t know the building had no sprinklers when he moved in in May. LaRoe said there were no announcements or flashing lights when the fire broke out.
Gordon Kihune, who has lived in the building for about 12 years, said he didn’t hear the alarms going off until he opened his apartment door. Angela Kim, a 30th-floor resident, said she can only hear the sirens if her apartment door is open.
A sprinkler system would have confined the blaze to the unit where it started, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said.
Douglas Hesley, branch president of Associa Hawaii, the management group that runs the Marco Polo building, declined to comment on past fire drills or safety plans that were in place at the time of the fire.
The Honolulu Fire Department said fire inspection reports are part of their investigation and cannot be immediately released.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city needs to look at passing a law requiring that older buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers.
In the U.S., between the 1970s and mid-1980s, there were mandates for sprinklers in new constructions. But getting sprinklers retrofitted in existing buildings was a taller hurdle, said Robert Solomon, a fire protection engineer with the National Fire Protection Association.
“This fire will bring a window of opportunity for everybody to come together on that,” Solomon said.