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Fire evacuation at Chinatown public housing project worries elderly residents

  • Video by Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com

    An eyewitness described tonight's fire.

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Residents at 1220 Aala Street evacuate as firefighters contain a fire within the complex tonight.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Residents at 1220 Aala Street evacuate as firefighters contain a fire within the complex tonight.

UPDATE 8:15 p.m.

Honolulu Fire Dept. Battalion Chief John Bowers said the fire was called in by a neighbor who knocked on the unit’s door.

He said the fire “was mainly in the kitchen, moving to the living room.”

Bowers said there were no injuries and that the occupants, a woman and her son, were not inside the unit at the time of the fire.

He said there are no sprinklers in the building, but there is a standpipe that allows fire hoses to be used on higher floors.

Previous coverage

Honolulu firefighters responded to a 12th-floor fire in Kalanihuia Apartments in Chinatown across Aala Park around 6:30 tonight and extinguished it at 6:51 p.m.

The 16-story building is managed by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

It was not immediately determined if there was someone in the unit at the time of the fire.

Many of the residents evacuated to the ground floor parking lot. Most were elderly, and some were using canes or walkers.

Residents said they were worried about getting less mobile residents out of the building because they had to use the stairs.

“I helped some people out — the elderly,” said Hazel McMillon, 70, who lives on the 15th floor. “Some of the people had to be helped down.”

McMillon said some people in wheelchairs needed to be helped.

Other residents pointed out that some residents couldn’t leave because they were physically unable. Some were still in their units when firefighters were dealing with the fire.

They said there are no sprinklers in the building and fire extinguishers aren’t allowed, but there are two speakers in each unit that make announcements during the fire. They were functional for tonight’s incident.

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