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HFD releases 911 calls from inside Marco Polo during fatal fire

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The July 14 fire at the Marco Polo condominium at 2333 Kapiolani Blvd. killed four people. The Honolulu Fire Department has released several 911 calls from inside the complex as the fire spread.

Newly released 911 calls from the July 14 Marco Polo high-rise fire offer a harrowing glimpse of what it was like to be caught in the seven-alarm blaze, which killed four people and caused at least $100 million in damage.

One of the calls, released Thursday night by the Honolulu Fire Department, detailed the final moments of Britt Reller, the 54-year-old Hawaiian Airlines manager, who was one of the four people killed. Another call came from a frustrated caller trapped in a smoke-filled apartment on the 26th floor. A man in another apartment called to say that he was worried that the fire was worsening while he waited. A man on a higher floor said he couldn’t hear police directions from an officer using a bullhorn on the ground.

All seven of the calls are poignant, but the 3-minute, 25-second exchange between a 911 operator and a Hawaiian Airlines employee, who is on another line with Reller, best illustrates how quickly the flames and smoke overwhelmed residents. At two minutes and 18 seconds into the call, the Hawaiian Airlines employee losses contact with her friend Reller.

Other fatalities from that night included Reller’s mother Jean Dilley, 87, who was in unit 2613 with him. A neighbor Joann M. Kuwata, 71, also died that night. Marilyn Van Gieson, an 81-year-old woman who was disabled and waited in her 32nd-floor condo for four hours for firefighters to rescue her, died 20 days later at Straub Medical Center.

The building, at 2333 Kapiolani Blvd. next to Ala Wai Community Park, was built in 1971 before the city began requiring sprinkler systems.

The fire caused damage to more than 80 of the 568 units, including 30 that were destroyed, mostly on the 26th through the 28th floors. About 130 firefighters responded to the fire, which investigators ruled to be of undetermined cause in October.

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