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Some urge sprinkler mandates across US after Honolulu fire

Published:Sunday | July 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this June 14, 2017 file photo, smoke billows from a high-rise apartment building on fire in west London.


When Moon Yun Pellerin's parents bought a 27th-floor apartment in a high-rise overlooking Waikiki about 15 years ago, they didn't realise the wave-shaped building had no fire sprinklers.

"We didn't even consider it," Pellerin said.

But a week after a massive fire broke out one floor below her apartment, killing three neighbours, Pellerin and her family "definitely want sprinklers" installed - even if it means spending thousands of dollars.

The Marco Polo Apartments were built in 1971, before sprinklers became mandatory for new construction in Honolulu.

Despite local lawmakers' efforts to require older buildings to install sprinkler systems, officials estimate about 300 high-rises on Oahu still lack the fire-prevention measure.

Across the United States, cities have a mixed bag of laws on whether older high-rise apartment buildings must install fire sprinklers that weren't required when the towers were first built. Many - including New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco - still have high-rises without the safety measure.

Cost is often cited. But after Honolulu's deadly July 14 fire, some question whether financial concerns outweigh the potential for tragedy.