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Fire destroys building that stores money records for UH system

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 04:15 p.m. HST, Feb 12, 2012

Honolulu firefighters continue to battle a fire at the University of Hawaii's lower campus that has destroyed a portable, wooden building next to the Stan Sheriff Center.

The fire to the 2,500- to 3,000-square foot fiscal management and procurement office was reported at 8:03 a.m. and firefighters had it under control at 8:21 a.m.

But around 10 a.m. today, "it just erupted into flames," Honolulu Fire Capt. Robert Main said.

The fire remains isolated to the single building and firefighters are trying to keep it from spreading, Main said.

"Once it got into the roof structure, we had problems getting into the roof area and opening it up," Main said. 

The building houses computerized and paper records for payroll, vendor payments and student loans for the entire 10-campus, UH system of about 60,000 students and 7,000 to 8,000 faculty and staff, said UH spokesman Gregg Takayama.

"Some of the records are backed-up on an off campus site, but most are not," Takayama said. "We won't know the impact until they're able to get back into the office and determine what kind of computer records and paper records can be salvaged. For now it's a bit too early to say what the immediate impact is."

The fire dislocated a UH staff of about 40 employees, Takayama said.

"Firemen did a great job in confining the fire to just that one building because it's very close to other wooden structures that are in that lower campus area," Takayama said.

The fire had caused an estimated $500,000 to the structure and $100,000 to the computers, files and other contents, Main said this morning.

But the damage is now considered a total loss, Main said.

The cause remains under investigation.

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olos73 wrote:
So what fees will politicians have to raise so we have to pay for repairs?
on February 12,2012 | 10:12AM
honmani2 wrote:
Probably none. The UH will just have to make do without any financial records and not attempt to fix the problem. It's probably because UH carries no insurance for this type of situation.
on February 12,2012 | 03:42PM
Loki wrote:
somebody didn't want to pay back their student loans.
on February 12,2012 | 10:21AM
zhawaii wrote:
Good job HFD! Only 18 minutes to respond and bring the fire under control is awesome.
on February 12,2012 | 10:39AM
ISCREAM wrote:
I drove by after 11 AM and it was still billowing smoke...didn't look to "under control" to me.
on February 12,2012 | 04:53PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
It was bruning all day today and finally ended at 3:00 pm! It was never under control...
on February 12,2012 | 08:11PM
Bothrops wrote:
18 minutes is really good. Looks like one of those old wooden termite infested buildings, bone dry wood. Let's just hope the records are properly backed up elsewhere or there will be chaos for students and staff.
on February 12,2012 | 10:50AM
Toneyuki wrote:
The building houses computerized and paper records for payroll, vendor payments and student loans for the entire 10-campus, UH system of about 60,000 students and 7,000 to 8,000 faculty and staff, said UH spokesman Gregg Takayama. "Some of the records are backed-up on an off campus site, but most are not," Takayama said.
on February 12,2012 | 05:19PM
soundofreason wrote:
on February 12,2012 | 07:12PM
mabiz wrote:
A good way to stop raising salary and allowances of the UH President and considering the students are suffering--PLEASE DO NOT raise the tuition fees further!!
on February 12,2012 | 11:24AM
Toneyuki wrote:
Huh? Burn the records to stop raising fees and salaries? That is not the answer.
on February 12,2012 | 05:20PM
AtomicMonkey wrote:
Was somebody proposing an audit recently?
on February 12,2012 | 11:28AM
cojef wrote:
Origin of fire unknown, where records are being mantained means either, faulty wiring or of suspicious nature. Carelessness could be staged if one needs to damage records or equipment. I too look at any fire as what's to profit by a friendly fire.
on February 12,2012 | 12:38PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Good job HFD??? Um the fire re-ignited at 11:00 am. That's 2 1/2 hours after it was suposedly "under control". This sounds more like someone not doing their job than a good job...
on February 12,2012 | 11:54AM
jrboi96786 wrote:
there's always something wrong with this university. security problem, computer breach problem, facility problem, budget problem, athletic problem, leadership problem, funding problem... then they make the students and tax payers pay for it by raising tuitions and asking legislature for more money... then these brainless politicians are building West Oahu when the can't even manage UH Manoa and those pathetic community colleges.
on February 12,2012 | 12:01PM
Anonymous wrote:
I used to work there - my heart goes out to all my former co-workers. Never thought about it before, but what was UH doing keeping vital records in old wooden buildings?? I hope they re-build something decent. ~ Naomi S.
on February 12,2012 | 01:28PM
Workingrl wrote:
Exactly my thought. What was the adminstration thinking about keeping paper and computerized payroll and financial records in "a portable, wooden building" ! And did this old wooden building even have a sprinkler system. Shame on UH! (an then we give the president an exhorbitant housing allowance)
on February 12,2012 | 04:09PM
admiral wrote:
This is so typical of UH. All over the Manoa campus elevators don't work, windows are cracked, things are literally falling apart, half of the bathrooms in one five-story building (Moore Hall) have been sealed shut because the plumbing doesn't work, etc., etc. Recently the Vice President in charge of facilities management told the Faculty Senate that his office is going to completely run out of money three months before the end of this fiscal year. Termite-ridden "temporary" buildings that are decades old have been fire traps for years....and now someone had the bright idea of storing tens of thousands of vital records in one of those dumps, with the inevitable result. What a disaster. I don't know who is to blame more, the State Legislature for slashing funds to UH year after year, thus forcing the Regents to raise tuition to pay at least some of the bills, or the administration for making unbelievably stupid decisions such as this one. The people of Hawaii and their kids deserve more concern from the politicians and better decisions by the UH administrators than this. But the fact is that none of them care.
on February 12,2012 | 07:34PM
iwanaknow wrote:
No fire suppresent system? Penny wise and Pound foolish?
on February 12,2012 | 01:31PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
Gosh I really hope all the vital data is backed up off-site somewhere. It would have been stupid not to have done so by now.
on February 12,2012 | 02:14PM
SmedleyFerndock wrote:
UH spokesman Gregg Takayama. "Some of the records are backed-up on an off campus site, but most are not," They teach computer science at UH?????????
on February 12,2012 | 02:21PM
ghstar wrote:
Don't they teach that computer records should backed up off site, just for this reason? Got to agree with jrboi -- there's always some crisis at UH that is made worse by lack of management oversight, lack of maintenance, lack of security . . . Any data manager that does not back-up critical records off site is derelict.
on February 12,2012 | 04:07PM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
I'm at UH Manos grad (2 degrees), but I haver to say---this is major big time incompetence. (1) no back-ups for vital finanical records (2) storing vital records which are not backed-up in a decades old, "portable" building, dry as tinder. Also, the fire was out at 8:20 a.m., HFD p[ats itself on the back, and then the building suddenly "reerupts" into flames at 10:00 a.m.? Evidently HFD didn't do enough after 8:20 a.m. to douse all possible sources of re-ignition. I thought that was standard procedure at fires....
on February 12,2012 | 03:48PM
star08 wrote:
Yes, I was downwind at Church of the Crossroads. At 10:10 the smoke started pouring into the courtyard. Ashes were blowing. No one was told that there were possible toxic fumes being released just across the H-1. Guess the firefighters and our safety responders were too busy putting out the fire that was already out.
on February 12,2012 | 04:42PM
Changalang wrote:
The degree and amount of accelerant will be preserved, and if any Thomas Square ELFS were responsible; there will be life behind bars.
on February 12,2012 | 06:26PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Rumors have it that Occupy Honolulu is taking credit....
on February 12,2012 | 04:52PM
Changalang wrote:
FBI on it.
on February 12,2012 | 06:00PM
Changalang wrote:
They must've been storing HART's financial records there as well.
on February 12,2012 | 05:59PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Student Loans...gotcha!
on February 12,2012 | 07:27PM
AtomicMonkey wrote:
Did they think it was the ROTC building?
on February 12,2012 | 06:34PM
joshislost wrote:
Hmm. Security breach less than a year ago. Allow the purchase of universityofhawaii.xxx and now a fire in a wooden structure that cleans out all records. What incompetency do we allow to run our "education system" Terrible
on February 12,2012 | 07:57PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Blame human nature.
on February 12,2012 | 08:04PM
niimi wrote:
Was Marion Higa about to meet with the UH fiscal office?
on February 12,2012 | 08:55PM
Anonymous wrote:
I last worked there in '98 so I don't know how much has changed, but the reason some things are not backed up is they're hard copy contract files, bids & invoices w/original signatures, & handwritten notes & such, unless they started scanning things in, this is part of what gets lost in a fire. At least they converted to an on-line Purchase Order system in '98. - Naomi S.
on February 12,2012 | 09:00PM
localguy wrote:
One management failure after another for UH. Ok, critical records for UH operation are stored in a building that is not in compliance with standard fire codes, as in sprinklers or fire alarm system. And when was the last fire and safety inspection? UH now has to go through what is left, try to find out what records were destroyed and who they applied to, then contact them and try to recreate the records. Can you say "Babooze Managed UH"? I knew you could. From failure to protect computer records, willful financial mismanagement, to failure to comply with facility safety codes, the incompetence at UH knows no limits. And this is an institute of higher learning? Give us a break. Time for a top to bottom deadwood purge to get UH back in the groove. Current management just isn't up to the task. It's what they do.
on February 12,2012 | 09:59PM
MililaniGal wrote:
Stop complaining. Having worked in that building for many years. I know that the UH Administration could have cared less about that cost center. That's why they were housed in "temporary" buildings. I hope this makes them realize how important it is to have a fully supported administrative services. The Administration will want to do something, but will not have the $$ to do so. So, they'll just replace the building with another "temporary"building. Do not forget that the UH is a business and its financial records show how they are accountable to the students and stakeholders. To my friends who's work lives have been devastated by this event, my prayers are with you and I wish I was still in Hawaii to help you with the massive clean-up.
on February 13,2012 | 03:56AM
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