Residents at the Marco Polo building are reeling from the aftermath of Friday’s tragic fire.
Three people died in what’s considered the worst high-rise building fire in Hawaii’s history.
The Honolulu Fire Department is investigating, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Police are also investigating, because the fire resulted in fatalities.
All Monday, we saw residents come in and out of the building, along with workers in hard hats sifting through the charred remains of several floors.
Phillip Weisburd lives on the 26th floor, and found charred remains of the hallway. As he waits for investigators to complete their findings, he’s stuck with questions.
“They won’t let me up to the apartment yet. I don’t know if I have any stuff left,” he said. “I obviously can’t live there. Luckily I have friends who I can stay with right now. It’s just a waiting game at this point.”
According to building security, floors 25 through 29 are unlivable due to extensive fire damage. Management says that affects 45 to 50 units.
Agencies like the American Red Cross Hawaii State Chapter and The Salvation Army have stepped in to help with alternative housing.
Associa Hawaii, the company that manages the building, is also providing financial support.
“Our in-house charity has earmarked $50,000 for grants to folks who have been displaced,” said Andrew Fortin, senior vice president of external affairs. “We’ll be on site tomorrow, taking applications for grants to assist folks getting through these first weeks or so following this incident.”
Fortin says association insurance will likely cover some of the repairs, such as getting water out of the building and cleaning the common areas.
“Typically in a condo situation, a unit owner carries a policy that carries everything from the walls in and the association’s policy covers the walls and the structure. That’s likely to be the case here,” Fortin said.
Residents on other floors are allowed back in, which raises the question: Is the building, which was built in 1971, safe?
“The building is structurally sound. It’s made of reinforced concrete,” said building inspector Lance Luke. “The building is not going to collapse or fall down. It just needs to be fixed up. The fix is going to cost a few million dollars and it’s going to take a couple of years.”
Structural engineer Steve Baldridge takes it a step further.
“One thing that needs to be investigated is how the fire spread from one unit to another,” Baldridge said. “Theoretically, in accordance to the code, even the code back then, there are fire separation walls in between each individual units.”
The fire, which started in unit 2602, spread to the front and back of the building, which Baldridge says, is an indication that “something is wrong. Because you have two layers of fire resistance — a layer between the unit where fire started and the corridor, and a layer between the corridor and adjacent unit. The safest place in the building is supposed to be the corridor. That’s your fire exit.”
The fire is still actively under investigation, so there are a lot of unknowns.
Residents say the building has an app that keeps everyone informed of temporary accommodations and the latest on the fire investigation.