Maui Fire Department gains new aircraft to battle fires, save more lives

Maui Fire Department officials say a new asset will help them cover more ground and save more lives.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 6:30 PM HST|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 7:17 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Fire Department officials say a new asset will help them cover more ground and save more lives.

“A lot more cargo, a lot more firefighting capability, a lot more rescue capability,” said Maui Fire Chief Bradford Ventura.

It comes at a perfect time as the county sees alarming numbers of wildfires.

Just last week, firefighters were forced to battle six back-to-back brush fires.

So far this year, the county has responded to 84 brush fires. That’s compared to 71 this same time last year and 59 the year before.

The new twin-engine helicopter holds three times the amount of water and nearly three times as many passengers compared to the old Air 1.

“We have our unique district here in Maui County with all the other islands like Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Maui. In the past, we’d go to the west side of Molokai and we’d be at our limit. We’d probably have 5 to 10 minutes working time and then we’d have to come back for a fuel. But now, we can extend the searches for a longer period of time,” said Maui firefighter Dennis Swain Jr.

It also has hoisting capabilities so firefighters can now rescue multiple victims at a time.

“Versus in the past, we’d have to do one or two at a time, land, place them in the helicopter, transfer them over to a boat or land and then go back,” Swain said.

The aircraft is operated by Windward Aviation through a contract with the county.

Windward Aviation also has other choppers to back up Air 1.

“We’ll be able to bring more firefighting power to wildland firefighting. We’ll be able to rescue more individuals at larger incidents where we have multiple victims, which is actually pretty common when we deal with flash flood incidents, capsize vessels,” Ventura said.

The chief says there is none other like MFD’s new chopper in the state.

“As we kind of roll into our wildfire season and with this year being La Nina year, we anticipate a drier season and an earlier wildfire season. This is going to be a great addition,” he said.

The new Air 1 will come into service on July 1.

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