Honolulu high-rise fire: Several residents could not hear alarms in building

A high-rise fire in Hawaii killed three people and injured dozens of others and some did not even know an inferno had broken out in the building until they opened their doors or saw firefighters rushing in.

Several residents of the Marco Polo high rises in Honolulu told the AP on Sunday the fire alarms are located in the hallways and they had trouble hearing them when the blaze broke out. They said there were also no flashing alarm lights or public announcements about the fire.

Britt Reller jumped out of the shower when the fire started and did not realize the building was up in flames until smoke started to billow through his apartment, his brother said. He rushed out to try to save his 85-year-old mother, but he couldn’t reach her and sought refuge from the smoke and flames under a bed.

His brother, a local pastor, was on the phone with Reller at the time. He never heard from him again, and police later told him that both Reller and his mother, Melba Jeannine Dilley, were among those killed.

“He said the smoke was very, very thick, and I heard him calling for my mother and then the phone went dead,” Reller said. “I drove about 12 miles from my office to his apartment and then I just had to watch from outside. I’m still in shock. It is just surreal.”

Joanna Kuwata, 71, lived alone and could not make it out of the building, her sister told the AP. She died of smoke inhalation.

Cory La Rose, an Air Force cyber technician, told the AP said he did not realize the building had no sprinklers when he moved in in May. He said there were no announcements or flashing lights when the fire occurred.

“I just heard a loud ringing, which is what caused me to look outside. I actually thought it was something from the street that was making the noise. After I saw people running out and went out the hallway myself, that’s when I knew it was a fire alarm going off.”

Gordon Kihune, who has lived in the building for about 12 years, said he hasn’t seen any fire extinguishers or hoses in the building that he can remember.

The building known as the Marco Polo residences is not required to have fire sprinklers, which would have confined the blaze to the unit where it started, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said.

Officials have not released any information about a possible cause for the blaze.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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