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Firefighters take their battle over a new rescue unit to Honolulu Hale

Honolulu firefighters testified at Honolulu Hale in support of Bill 14
Honolulu firefighters testified at Honolulu Hale in support of Bill 14(None)
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 5:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Honolulu firefighters say those who take greater risks are not being trained well enough to remain safe.

Those assigned to rescue units testified Thursday at Honolulu Hale, urging the council to pass Bill 14 ― a measure that has caused a rift in the department.

The bill would establish minimum qualifications to be assigned to a rescue unit.

“Currently, you can get on a rescue truck having no specific rescue training at all,” said Fire Capt. Jason Racoma.

Councilman Tommy Waters introduced the measure and urged the other council members to support the bill.

“This rescue company is a highly specialized unit and they do extremely dangerous rescues: They scale down cliffs to save a hiker who’s been stranded, dive rescues, structural collapse, trench rescue, confined space rescue, rope rescue, rescue boat operator that’s what they need training on," he said.

Those who testified in support said the bill is necessary because, they claim, the Honolulu Fire Department administration is cutting corners to get a third rescue unit up and staffed quickly.

Fire Capt. Dean Stowell said the firefighters are not opposed to a new unit they just want to ensure there are enough adequately trained people before it is operational.

But HFD Chief Manuel Neves previously testified that the department had been generous in resources and equipment for the firefighters already and that legislation was not needed.

Neves had said months ago the two sides could work it out on their own, but that fell apart.

Fire Capt. Kalai Miller said the measure would guarantee that the units comprised of well trained firefighters to ensure the safety of the first responders and those they help.

“If the administration is doing things the right way, Bill 14 will sit quietly in the background unnoticed. If not, Bill 14 is a backstop for all of our firefighters to be fully prepared to do their job," Miller said.

The legislation passed third reading with only one council member voting against it, Brandon Elefante. The measure now goes to the mayor to be signed.

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