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Black Smoke Billowed Across the Waikiki Sky as Flames Forced Evacuations

Monday, July 17, 2017 0:05
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14 July 2017 — A month to the day, another high-rise fire tops the news, this time in Honolulu, Hawaii. Built in 1971, the luxury high-rise building never required a sprinkler system, and without an official mandate, the building owners did not spend the money on a sprinkler system retrofit of the building.

The five alarm blaze at the Marco Polo apartment condominiums started on the 26th floor Friday afternoon around 2:15 pm local time, and spread upward, reaching the 28th floor by 6:00 pm local time. It was a five hour battle, bravely fought, with control/containment won by the over 100 firefighters on the scene by 7:00 pm.

The thick black smoke which poured over the city all afternoon could be seen for miles, but as the sun was setting, the island winds began to take  most of it away, and by midnight the firefighters had the fire totally extinguished. 

The hi-rise building is vast, designed in a flowing wave like shape with several defined sections. In this case the fire was primarily confined to a single section. This diagram shows the residential first floor layout.

The firefighters made entry from one side of the high-rise, and they established a staging area on the 24th floor, directly below the areas burning out of control in the building. From there the firefighters moved upward to battle the flames on the burning floors.

Residents above and below the fire, as well as those in the units directly adjacent to the burning units were evacuated, while other individuals in units not in the fire’s path were told they should remain in their units. Not an incorrect call, With the firemen active in the building, on hand to assist any of the residents who remained as they continued to fight the fire, working to keep it contained.

“There were multiple reports of occupants trapped by the smoke and flames,” said Fire Capt. David Jenkins. “Many occupants were instructed to shelter in place until emergency personnel could escort them to safety. Emergency responders assisted dozens of occupants down stairwells to exit the building.”

There was also a special team already going door to door in the burned out areas searching for victims even as the units still smoldered. Sadly they discovered three dead individuals in two different units, all on the 26th floor where the fire originated.

Pearl City Community Church Pastor Phil Reller told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the police had confirmed two of the victims killed in the blaze are his 54 year old brother and his 85 year old Mother.

The third victim is another female, Melba Dilley.

Many residents required immediate attention for smoke inhalation from the paramedics on scene, while additional individuals were injured and were taken to the hospital, with four reported in serious condition. One firefighter was treated at hospital for heat exhaustion before being released.  

In some of the video scenes, firefighters can be seen standing out on the lanais (balconies) of some units, and directing water from hoses across the open air to the unit windows where the fire was burning. In other images, the firefighters can be seen shooting water upward into the burning units of the floor above as they finished conquering the flames on the floor where they stood.

As the residents were finally allowed to return to their undamaged units, the 26th, 27th and 28th floors of the Marco Polo condominiums remain closed to those residents because of the fire, smoke and water damage their units suffered.

Karen Hastings, a 71 year old woman who lived on the 31st floor, said she could smell the smoke and stepped out on the balcony, where she could see the flames on the floors below. The next thing she knew, windows on the 26th floor exploded, with the glass tumbling down to the ground below, and fire flying out the broken windows. She said it looked, “like a horror movie.” That was when she and a neighbor hurried to evacuate the building.

Another resident who declined to give his name, made it out safely. He said he took the stairs from the 29th floor after smelling the smoke and seeing the blaze below his unit from his balcony. He said there was so much black smoke he could hardly see as he made his way out of the building.

Cory La Roe, stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force, works night shifts and was asleep when sirens woke him. “First thing, I was kind of disoriented and confused about what was going on, so I looked out my window and saw people running away from the building, looking back toward it.” La Roe said he did not hear any verbal announcements, and there were no flashing fire alarm lights but, “after I saw people running out and went out to the hallway, I knew it was a fire alarm.”

None of the residents gathered outside of the building could remember recent fire drills when asked, but one resident, Anna Viggiano, said she did remember fire drills being conducted years ago, right after a 2013 fire which broke out two floors above her sixth floor unit. She went on to say that since that incident, she does not hesitate to evacuate the building when she hears the fire alarm.

This news coverage is from a San Francisco area CBS affiliate, and is reporting of the 14 July 2017 fire which was just breaking out at that time. The report gives a quick summary of the happening events,

This video presents the official briefing covering the incident.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city of Honolulu needs to look into passing a law which would require older high-rise buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers. “The biggest argument is the affordability,” Caldwell said. “Residents have to pay. It’s pretty expensive. But if it saves a life and it’s your life, it’s worth the cost.”

Fire Chief Manuel Neves told reporters that the building did not have a sprinkler system. He then went on to say that, “Without a doubt, if there was sprinklers in this apartment, the fire would be contained to the unit of origin … the unit (where) the fire started,” he said.

The Marco Polo apartment condominiums contains were built in 1971, and contain 568 Units on 36 Floors. On the penthouse level, there are ten three bedroom units, the largest in the high, along with larger two bedroom units. The remainder of the residential areas of the building are a mixture of studio, one bedroom and two bedroom units, with the living space ranging from a small 436 sq ft all the way up to 1,957 sq ft on the penthouse level.

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Total 2 comments
  • unidentified

    probably wasnt an accident

  • dakota

    This was pre-meditated, arson by the occult fire department with orders from satanic higher-ups.
    26th floor it started on ( two 13s). Also see the pic where the firemen are crisscrossing their hose water to make a huge X. X means DEATH.

    It occurred on July 14th ( 7 for 7th month and two more 7s for the 14th = 777).



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