There’s trouble in paradise after a massive fire at a huge Honolulu, Hawaii apartment building left the area strewn with asbestos and left residents and others wondering whether it’s safe both inside and outside of their apartments.
According to a story on KHON-TV, the July 14th blaze, which destroyed dozens of units at the Marco Polo, dislodged the hazardous material and investigators from the television station say that – nearly two weeks later – there was no plan in the hands of the authorities for asbestos abatement.
It’s an issue that concerned many and, thankfully, the State Department has finally taken oversight of the scene.
“Trade winds whip straight through the Marco Polo’s charred tunnels of debris and destruction left in the wake of the July 14 fire,” explained a reporter describing what was left behind. “An overflowing dumpster of waste from smoke and water-soaked floors sits open by the sidewalk.”
One resident believes that many living at the Marco Polo are totally unaware of the dangers that exist…and no one has bothered to tell them.
“The units were heavily affected by a lot of debris and everything like that. I didn’t see any of the fire inspectors or people wearing masks at all,” a Marco Polo resident who wished to remain anonymous told the Always Investigating team at KHON, “and therefore I don’t think that residents were probably aware.
Because they didn’t see them with masks on, that probably deterred them from thinking that they even needed that.”
Firefighters say they weren’t warned before they went into the blaze that there was asbestos in the structure. That put them at serious risk for exposure.
“I have not seen anything from HFD in regards to addressing the asbestos issue at all,” said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.
“Pretty much from firefighters out there, there hasn’t been any talk about asbestos. It’s just the general direction of cleaning your turnouts when you get to the station.”
The Honolulu Fire Department said no additional precautions are being taken at this time and declined to answer whether any health screenings or services were being offered to firefighters who were present at the scene of the blaze, either during or after the fire.
But Bobby Lee remains concerned.
“Once our firefighters got out of the building, they should have collected their personal protective equipment, bagged it on scene and taken it to the storeroom to be properly dealt with,” Lee said. “Instead what happened was our firefighters ended up jumping back into their trucks, contaminating the trucks or the potential contamination of our trucks, going back to our station, contaminating the stations and passing this contamination to the other watches coming into the stations.”
And this wasn’t just one station, Lee points out. Twenty companies from 12 different stations were called upon to fight the fire. That means there’s the potential of contamination at each.
In the meantime, residents that remain in the building say there have been no written or visual warnings about potential asbestos contamination nor has anyone else going in and out of the building been told that they could be inhaling asbestos fibers.
That means it could simply be too late for those who were already exposed.