Hundreds of residents evacuated a Waikiki high-rise late Thursday afternoon due to a fire confined to a single unit on the 25th floor, but some remained in their homes.
Everyone managed to escape without injury from the fire, but between six and eight residents, primarily older ones, were treated for heat exhaustion and difficulty breathing after walking down many flights of stairs at the 39-story condo — the Chateau Waikiki at 411 Hobron Lane, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Scot Seguirant.
Emergency Medical Services treated an 88-year-old woman for exhaustion she experienced during the evacuation, and transported her to a hospital for treatment. No one was treated for smoke inhalation or injuries directly related to the fire.
“It’s a long ways down,” said Doreen Axani, a resident in her mid-80s, on the 32nd floor of the Chateau Waikiki, a 39-story condominium building. “When they banged on my door, he said, ‘There’s a fire. Get down! There’s a fire just below you.’ I came right down. My legs were rubbery.”
The Honolulu Fire Department dispatched 11 companies staffed with 43 personnel.
Fire crews received the initial alarm at 4:41 p.m. The first company arrived at 4:46 p.m.
The fire was under control at 5:04 p.m. and extinguished at 5:56 p.m.
At 6:21 p.m., fire crews began letting some residents into the building. By 6:30 p.m. all but some of the residents on the 25th floor were allowed back in.
Seguirant said the building has no sprinklers, but did have working smoke alarms. The condo is upgrading its alarm system now, but the existing system alerted residents to evacuate.
“HFD will continue to advocate for fire sprinklers in buildings,” he said. “It is the most effective way to protect your property and save lives from a fire.”
Mary Kendall, 77, said she heard the alarm go off, but it wasn’t until her husband saw smoke that she evacuated. “I can’t smell. I’ve lost my sense of smell, but he can.”
She refused to evacuate during a fire in the building five years ago. “I really feel safe in my apartment,” she said. She pointed out that unlike the deadly 2017 Marco Polo fire where some units had louvered doors, all units have fire doors.
Chris Valentine, 35, who lives on the 33rd floor, said before the alarms had gone off, “I saw the smoke coming out of the building, so I grabbed the cats and left.”
Dachshund owner Kayo Akatsuka, 42, who lives on the same floor, said: “I’m so glad I was at home. He’s heavy and he’s old.” She carried her dog Senji, 13, who weighs 25 pounds, down 33 flights. “I just went up Koko Crater Trail this morning, and so I got a double workout.”
Valerie Rice, 55, said, “I was ignoring (the alarm) because sometimes they do a drill, but then he got on and said, ‘This is not a drill.’”
“I made it down nine flights with the cat,” Buffy, a 13-year-old Persian in her pet carrier.