Honolulu firefighters return from wildfire training - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Honolulu firefighters return from training during massive Colorado wildfire

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A team of Hawai'i firefighters has just returned from hands-on training during a Colorado wildfire with one of the nation's best incident management teams.  When there's an emergency, incident management teams are put in place to command and control the situation.  They take care of everything from logistics and planning to the operational, safety and community issues.  It's a crucial role and firefighters with the Honolulu Fire Department got to learn from one of the most experienced teams in the country.

Six members of the Honolulu Fire Department's local incident management team spent nearly two weeks training with commanders working the West Fork Fire complex.  The wildfire has burned more than 110,000 acres, making it the second-largest in Colorado history.

"It was a great experience being in Colorado and something that I'm very honored to have been allowed to do," said Capt. John Bowers.

Each of the firefighters shadowed a specific position, from incident command to operations and safety chief.

"As a safety officer ultimately you're looking at a risk analysis and probability analysis of the situations that may occur and cause a safety incident, and what you try to do is minimize the risks or the probability of those incidents happening," explained Capt. Bowers.

Officials say the training was an opportunity to learn more about managing long term incidents.

"Down here, we look at a brush fire and it consumes, say a thousand acres or more and it lasts up to 3 or 4 days that to us is something big down here.  Up there, a thousand acres can disappear in half a day and they last 10, 12, 15 days," described Capt. Bowers.  

Aside from differences in size and duration, Bowers says the safety lessons apply to our local firefighters.

"Addressing how fast the fire is moving, what are the fire conditions and the risks associated with them.  Making sure that the men have escape routes.  If it's going long-term, that we're bringing in a lot of water so they're re-hydrating and giving them the rest they need after a prolonged working time," explained Capt. Bowers.

The acting battalion chief says the most important thing he learned is to always remember the bigger picture.

"You try to minimize those risks, you try to see those, but sometimes if you get tunnel vision, you don't see those things.  That's where you're going to run into problems and so the main thing for me is to stay big picture," said Capt. Bowers.

You may not have seen them, but HFD's incident management team was out at Ala Moana for the 4th of July fireworks show from Magic Island.  Officials say they don't just respond to emergency situations when they happen, they plan for what could happen and make sure there are contingencies in place.

The West Fork Complex fire is still burning.  Colorado officials say it's about 20% contained.

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