Sprinklers would’ve limited damage to townhouse complex, fire officials say

SATURDAY UPDATE: As of Friday night, 19 people were displaced by the fire, more than anticipated.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and arson is not being considered.

The fire started on the ground floor of Building U, possibly Unit 3.

Damage is estimated at $498,000, $150,000 to contents.

One pet dog was injured and later taken to the veterinarian for treatment.

Another pet dog was initially missing, but later found dead in one of the damaged units.

Four units are considered a complete lost, but it is not known at this time if Building U needs to be demolished due to the fire damage.

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Eight Ewa Beach families could not return to their homes Friday night after a fire damaged or destroyed their townhouse units.

The fire broke out shortly before 1:30 Friday afternoon at Kulana Village.  The townhouse complex is located on Kuilioloa Place, near Ft. Weaver Road.

Firefighters deemed the fire under control at 2:11 p.m.

Some of the residents were at home at the time, and everyone got out without major injuries.  Only one person was treated for minor injuries.

Officials say the fire started on the ground floor in one of the units, then quickly spread from Building U to Building T.

“I was in Waikele shopping and my brother-in-law called me saying my house was on fire, so very shocked,” said Monalisa Tupua, whose home was destroyed by the fire.

“Our mom was knocking on the door then we came down and fought the fire from behind, it was coming over to our back yard,” said Joel Dagdag, whose home has smoke damage.

“I tried to put it out with an extinguisher but was too much already so we grabbed what we could and got out,” said Joseph Baclaan, whose friend lives in a home that was destroyed.

In all nine units were affected, but one of the units was unoccupied.

Officials say six units are considered unlivable, and the remainder have smoke damage.

One of the dogs that was at home alone when the fire broke out has major burns on his body.  Officials say the dog has been taken to a veterinarian to get treated.

Fire investigators plan to return to the scene on Saturday to continue looking into the cause.

The townhouse units were not equipped with fire sprinklers.  Officials say the fire would not have spread very far if the units had been equipped with fire sprinklers.

“So without a doubt, this fire today in Ewa Beach would not have gotten much beyond the room of origin in that unit, and certainly not beyond the unit to the next,” HFD Captain Terry Seelig said.

Fire sprinklers are activated by heat, and they release water to prevent a fire from growing.  Only the sprinklers nearest to the fire activate.

Kulana Village was built in 1971, without a fire sprinkler system.

“As of now the the same type of building built today, a two-story town home, would not be required to have sprinklers,” Seelig said.  “Anything that’s a three-story or above will, and other types of occupancies.  All hotels, all office buildings, all shopping malls, all large areas where people assemble, concert halls, theaters, new buildings all have to have sprinklers.”

And even though it’s not required by law, HFD officials hope that one day the law will change.  Until then, they encourage people to consider installing a fire sprinkler system on their own.

You’ll need to get a permit, then hire a licensed contractor.

“If you’re talking about a single family home, that can range from $5,000 to $10,000 to a little more depending how far the home is from the water main, how big a home it is, if you have to change a lateral line and so on,” HFD Asst. Chief Socrates Bratakos said.

And it would cost even more to install fire sprinklers in multi-unit townhouse buildings like the ones at Kulana Village.

“But I can tell you it’s very cheap compared to the loss of an entire unit, or the loss of anybody’s life,” said Bratakos.

California and Maryland are the only states that require fire sprinkler systems to be installed in all new homes.  But cities can also adopt fire sprinkler requirements, as hundreds of cities across the nation have done.

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