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Caldwell proposes mandating sprinkler systems for older high-rise condo buildings

Gordon Y.K. Pang
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Mayor Kirk Caldwell visited the Marco Polo building on Friday afternoon. Caldwell has sent the City Council a proposal to require residential condominiums without automatic fire sprinklers to install them.

Three days after a major fire killed three people at the Marco Polo condominium complex, Mayor Kirk Caldwell has sent the City Council a proposal to require high-rise residential buildings without automatic fire sprinklers to install them.

“The unfortunate event last week at the Marco Polo condominium shows that, while fire sprinklers may cost the unit owners a few thousand dollars to install, they can save a life and prevent significant property damage in the event of a fire,” Caldwell said in a letter to Council Chairman Ron Menor and the other Council members. “This bill (will) help ensure that life and property are continually safeguarded from the hazards of fire.”

An existing high-rise residential building is defined in the bill as any building “that has floors used for human occupancy located more than 75 feet above the highest grade, contains dwelling units, and which was erected prior to the date of approval of this article, or one for which a legal building has been issued.”

Fire Chief Manuel Neves also signed the memo to the Council.

The bill must still be formally introduced, on behalf of Caldwell, by Menor.

Specifically, the measure changes the Fire Code to add the words “existing high-rise residential buildings” to the types of structures that must adhere to “life safety requirements.” The other structures are existing hotel buildings and existing high-rise residential buildings.

The 568-unit Marco Polo on Kapiolani Boulevard was built in 1971, four years before sprinklers were mandated for Oahu high-rises. On Friday, Neves said if the building had sprinklers, the deadly fire would likely have been contained to the unit where the fire started.

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