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Honolulu City Council approves bill to relax fire safety mandates for high-rise buildings

Catherine Cruz

The Honolulu City Council approved Wednesday a bill that gives a measure of relief to condominiums facing mandates to install fire sprinkler systems or other safety measures.

City officials moved to crack down on residential towers without sprinkler systems following the 2017 Marco Polo condo fire in Honolulu that killed four people.

The Marco Polo was built before fire sprinklers were required in high-rises.

Councilmember Carole Fukunaga drafted Bill 37 to extend the deadline for buildings to comply with so-called life safety evaluations as an alternative to installing fire sprinklers. These evaluations must now be completed by the end of August, instead of May.

"The goal of Honolulu’s fire code, which should really be to help the 38,747 individual unit owners and their co-op and condo associations achieve fire safety, rather than causing them greater financial distress," Fukunaga said.

Bill 37 also pushes back certain compliance mandates by five years.

Condo owners say the cost of retrofitting older buildings with fire sprinklers is cost-prohibitive. Many have opted to be evaluated based on other safety measures, such as alarms and fire-retardant building materials.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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