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In unusual move, Hawaii’s firefighters union endorses a candidate for chief

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s fire commission has narrowed down the list of potential candidates to be the next chief.

Acting Chief Lionel Camara, Jr. and acting Deputy Chief Sheldon Kalani Hao have been working together since Manuel Neves left the top position earlier this year.

And in an unusual move recently, Hawaii’s Fire Fighters Association announced it’s endorsing Hao.

“This is the first time that I know of, that the union has taken this kind of position,” said HFFA President Bobby Lee. “The last eight years have been pretty challenging with this administration.”

Lee said the union sees Camara as an extension of the previous administration, which often clashed with the union.

HFD Acting Chief Lionel Camara, Jr.
HFD Acting Chief Lionel Camara, Jr.(None)

Camara was the deputy chief under former Neves.

Months before Neves announced he’d leave, some of the firefighters testified before council members that Neves and the HFD administration weren’t taking public safety and firefighter safety seriously.

The testimony centered around more training for rescuers.

Camara said in an interview with Hawaii News Now on Monday, that he was not always in agreement with Neves and his policies.

“I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work,” Camara said. “Moving forward, I’m my own person, I have to make my own decisions.”

Hao was the battalion chief in the operations division and the union sees him as a firefighter, not administrator.

“It was time for a change,” Lee said.

Hao said he and Camara work well together and said if he is chosen he knows he has to try to bridge the gap between the lower ranks, the union and the administration.

HFD Acting Dep. Chief Sheldon Kalani Hao
HFD Acting Dep. Chief Sheldon Kalani Hao(None)

“We have to put the personalities aside and focus on the issues,” Hao said.

Both will make presentations before fire commissioners Wednesday at 10 a.m. at an emergency meeting called over the chief search.

Public testimony will be taken by phone.

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