Firefighters union criticizes department for response to highrise blaze

Firefighters union criticizes department for response to highrise blaze
Updated: Jul. 25, 2017 at 4:23 PM HST
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(Image: Tetsuya Hayashi)
(Image: Tetsuya Hayashi)

MOILIILI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The president of the fire department's union said he's gotten a number of complaints from firefighters who say they didn't have proper resources to respond to the massive blaze at the Marco Polo highrise that killed three, injured a dozen more and damaged hundreds of units.

"When you're looking at a five-alarm fire, it really is a fire that requires all of the command people to be there, especially the executive staff," said Bobby Lee, of the union. "You got civilian deaths, you got over 100 firefighters there on scene. I was somewhat disappointed that the executive staff, that they weren't there."

In addition, Lee said the department's mobile command unit was initially dispatched to the scene, but then canceled.

The unit is a one-stop shop for communications and scene management.

"There's no reason for it not to be there," Lee said. "That's what we bought, or the department bought that truck for. They spent a lot of money, public money, to have that resource available to our firefighters. To not only protect them, but to protect the public. And there's absolutely no reason for it not to be there."

One Marco Polo resident who was displaced by the fire and asked to remain anonymous said she bought a unit knowing asbestos existed there.

Lee said he has received complaints that policy was not followed in regards to asbestos once firefighters left the scene.

"You want to collect all of the personal protective equipment of the firefighters, bag it so you don't contaminate the trucks, take it back to the stations, contaminate the stations, and everything we've heard, that wasn't done," he said.

The blaze, which broke out in unit 2602, could be the largest highrise fire in state history, Lee said.

Capt. David Jenkins, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman, said a post-incident analysis is set for Thursday to discuss HFD's response to the blaze.

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