Fire officials begin enforcing Christmas tree ban in some buildings – KITV Honolulu
The Honolulu Fire Department plans to enforce a law banning live cut trees from certain buildings in 2015.
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The law has been on the books for two years. It affects hotels, common areas of condominiums, restaurants and places where large groups assemble — including some halls and churches.
“And the reason for that is the way those buildings were built and designed, the fire-protection systems can’t handle that type of fuel load if it were to be involved in a fire. So regardless of the type of tree and the care for it, it’s really a matter of public safety,” said Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Seelig.
Seelig said if a tree were involved in a fire, it would spread the fire’s flame and heat rapidly.
That’s what happened in a fatal fire in 1985 after someone threw something that ignited a Christmas tree in the lobby of the Outrigger Surf hotel. The hotel chain hasn’t used live cut trees since.
HFD has slowly rolled out enforcement beginning with Honolulu Hale in 2013. Since then, all the Christmas trees inside City Hall have been artificial.
Ron Komine, general manager of 1350 Ala Moana, said they have an 18-foot tree. He said that while someone is at the front desk at all times, he is not confident that they would be able to handle the tree if it caught fire.
“Our feeling is we love our beautiful tree,” Komine said. “We’ve had it for many years in our lobby. My No. 1 responsibility is the safety of our residents and our owners.”
The Christmas tree has been a longtime tradition at Murphy’s Bar and Grill.
“Oh, it’s very disappointing,” said Don Murphy of Murphy’s Bar and Grill. “We’ve had live cut trees here for 27 years now and every year we get all excited people. We have a 12 to 13-foot tree, people come in and the smell of Christmas, you know. In Hawaii, we don’t really get a lot of the feeling of Christmas because there’s no snow or cold weather or people bundled up. So we do get the smell, so I hope. I’m disappointed that it’s happening but it is. We’ll have to comply. That’s their job.”
The Fire Department said it will work with affected businesses to help them determine how they might use wreaths or garland for smell. Those are also fire hazards
Seelig said there’s no plan to regulate trees in homes or apartments, although some condos can and do ban them already.