The Marco Polo high rise almost one year after the fire

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The deadly Marco Polo Condominium fire is considered one of the most destructive fires in Honolulu’s history.

Nearly one year later, residents said there are plans to install sprinklers and other changes to bring the building up to code. But many units are still unlivable.
   
On July 14, 2017, flames surged from the 26th floor of the Marco Polo high rise at 2333 Kapiolani Blvd. Black smoke billowed from the building, engulfing the apartments.

More than 120 firefighters fought the blaze for hours. In the end, the fire took the lives of four Marco Polo residents: Britt Reller and his mother Melba Dilley, Marilyn Van Gieson and Joann Kuwata.

Damage to the building is estimated at more than $107 million. More than 80 units were damaged by fire, heat or smoke and another 130 units were damaged by water.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, but the Honolulu Fire Department confirmed that it started in the living room of unit 2602.

Almost one year after the fire, the 26th and 27th floors remains shut down. Many residents on other levels are still unable to live in their apartments.

“I think the worst part is mold, the potential for mold. But I don’t think I had too much mold. I was told I don’t have asbestos, which is a good thing,” said Dara Young. Young lives on the 17th floor. Her apartment sustained minimal damage compared to some of her neighbors.

Kurt Sibayan’s unit is on the 15th floor.

Sibayan said the portions of his apartment near the corridor were drenched by the water. “So dining room, bathroom, kitchen. so anything closest to the hallway got damaged.”

The good news is sprinklers will soon be installed in each unit and in the hallways. The work should begin next month as soon as the abatement process is completed. The plan is to install them floor by floor, and no one will have to move out when it’s being done.

In addition to sprinklers, there are other safety measures being added including fire alarms.

“Hardwired alarms. So everybody is going to have them…and I think strobe in the hallways, flashing lights. I think it’s just going to put us into code, the current code,” Sibayan explained

The shudder doors were also removed. They were said to have helped the fire spread quicker.

With all the renovations and upgrades to the building residents are trying to remain positive.

“I believe that in the long run this will bring more value to the units. And we all talk to our neighbors now so that’s a good thing,” said Young.

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