Firefighters union raises asbestos concerns from 7-alarm highrise blaze

Updated: Aug. 10, 2017 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly a month after more than 120 Honolulu firefighters responded to the city's largest-ever highrise fire, many are being asked turn in their jackets, hoods, and pants because of potential asbestos contamination.

It's a directive that's prompted the president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association to accused the Honolulu Fire Department of failing to protect its firefighters.

"I'm really disappointed that they didn't do that at the scene of the fire. This is almost a month later," said Bobby Lee. "Even though they put it through the wash, there's no guarantee it takes out the asbestos. It would still be considered contaminated."

Lee says that an email recently went out to all the firefighters who responded to the fire that day – they have until tomorrow to turn in their gear.

In a statement sent Thursday afternoon, a Honolulu Fire Department spokesperson said the decision was an "additional precaution to ensure the integrity" of firefighter's equipment. The statement did not address why the collection of equipment was happening nearly a month after the fire.

Retired HFD Captain Richard Soo says fire command staff should have ordered that gear be bagged at the scene in order to prevent potential contamination of fire trucks to fire stations, then to other firefighters, who ran the risk of taking it into their homes.

"The ultimate real problems for the future of these firefighters, their lives, their medical lives, what's gonna happen to them? If it truly comes out that they were exposed," Soo said.

"One exposure is potentially enough to cause cancer anywhere (from) 15 to 30 years down the road," added Lee.

Lee says he is now having his members file workers compensation and exposure reports.

"Just to protect themselves down the road, should they develop cancer. There's some kind of record that they were involved in this fire," Lee said.

Mobile users: Click here to see a slideshow of the seven-alarm Marco Polo highrise fire.

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