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Marco Polo fire sparks renewed push for sprinkler systems to be installed in high-rises

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The deadly fire at the Marco Polo building sparks a renewed push for sprinkler systems to be installed at condos and apartments.

Senator Wakai says Friday’s fire reminded him of another deadly fire in 2005 that moved him to introduce legislation that protects local families.    

“Here we are 12 years later and nothing’s changed. Again we see a loss of life.” said Wakai.

Senator Wakai plans to re-introduce the bill next legislative session.

“It would be really encouraging if the condo association somehow got their group and board together to say that lives are more important than money.  Let’s make the investment in doing the right thing and putting sprinklers into older condos.” said Wakai.

The Marco Polo building was built before Honolulu required fire sprinkler systems in new residential high-rises.  Many of its residents are retired or elderly on fixed incomes.

In 2005, a report estimated safety upgrades at the Marco Polo would cost a little over $4,000 per unit.

Sam Dannaway wrote the report and says cost was the main problem.

“There’s an association that represents all the condo associations and they lobbied very heavily against it. You know it's quite an expensive deal.” explained Dannaway.

Wakai says the two main groups against the bill was Marco Polo and the Yacht Harbor Tower Residence.

“It’s kind of ironic that they were the two voices that were against mandatory as well as tax incentives for sprinkler systems and here they are today having to bear the detriment of that decision.” said Wakai.

A separate report for the Marco Polo Condominium Association in 2013 estimated it would cost $4.5 million to retrofit the entire building.

That's nearly $8,000 per unit.

Dannaway also stressed the importance of sprinklers in high rises not only for the safety of occupants, but for firefighters as well.

No word yet from the Marco Polo Apartments on whether they plan to install sprinklers.

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