Committee recommends installing sprinklers in 150 buildings

HONOLULU — An advisory committee formed in response to the deadly fire at a high-rise apartment building has recommended to the Honolulu City Council that 150 older buildings be retrofitted with automatic sprinkler systems.

An original list identified 360 buildings that could use sprinkler systems, but the Residential Fire Safety Advisory Committee narrowed it down to 150.

It is older buildings where residents walk out of their apartment and into an enclosed hallway that need the sprinklers, assistant fire chief Socrates Bratakos said.

Sprinkler systems can prevent flames from spreading, fire officials said.

“We saw that the buildings that have exterior access for all units and no full-length interior corridors did not present as much of a risk,” Bratakos said. “Why? Because the fire usually starts in the unit. By the time it comes out the door, it can dissipate.”

The committee’s recommendations are just guidelines and require approval from the mayor and City Council.

The Honolulu Fire Department is also backing a bill to amend fire code. If that’s approved, buildings 20 stories or higher would need sprinklers installed in common areas within eight years and buildings 10 to 19 stories within 10 years.

The bill will be considered on Nov. 14 during the meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs. Officials are expected to discuss the committee’s recommendations at that time.

The July 14 fire in the Marco Polo building killed three people and injured 12. The fire caused an estimated $100 million or more in damage, officials said. The building was built in 1971, which was four years before sprinklers became mandatory for new construction in Honolulu.


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