(BIVN) – Motivated to prevent a wildfire disaster like the one recently experienced on Maui, the Hawaiʻi County Council on Tuesday advanced a measure urging the mayor to increase capacity and funding for the Hawaiʻi Fire Department.
Puna councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz introduced the resolution that was heard by the County Council Committee on Governmental Operations and External Affairs.
From the Council’s Resolution 333-23:
A RESOLUTION STRONGLY URGING THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR TO INCREASE CAPACITY AND FUNDING FOR THE HAWAIʻI FIRE DEPARTMENT TO PROACTIVELY MITIGATE THE POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF WILDFIRES.
WHEREAS, the Hawaiʻi Fire Department (hereinafter referred to as “HFD”) plays a crucial role in protecting the lives and property of our residents and visitors; and
WHEREAS, HFD’s mission encompasses preventing, mitigating, and responding to fires, as well as addressing other emergencies such as medical incidents, hazardous materials situations, and natural disasters; and
WHEREAS, the County of Hawaiʻi has experienced an alarming increase in the number of wildfires in recent history, and these wildfires have exhibited greater size, intensity, duration, and destruction, largely attributed to changes in our climate, including prolonged periods of drought, extreme weather conditions, and accumulation of hazardous fuel sources (see “Exhibit A” attached hereto); and
WHEREAS, these evolving wildfire patterns pose a significant threat to the health, safety, and well-being of our community, environment, and economy; and
WHEREAS, “fire seasons” have transformed into entire “fire years” where a year-round workforce is required for suppression, recovery, and planning for future wildfires; and
WHEREAS, a proactive and comprehensive strategy is essential to preventing wildfires, including investment in fire prevention measures such as creating firebreaks, conducting controlled burns, and promoting public awareness and education (see “Exhibit B” attached hereto); and
WHEREAS, in addition to fire prevention, investments must be made in firefighter training, apparatus, equipment, and facilities maintenance to ensure that HFD personnel have the necessary resources to safely and effectively combat fires and respond to emergencies (see “Exhibit C” attached hereto); and
WHEREAS, the successful recruitment and retention of our HFD career firefighters is of paramount importance to maintain the highest level of fire protection and emergency response services for the people of our community, ensuring their continued safety and well-being; and
WHEREAS, a volunteer firefighter program complements our dedicated career firefighters during emergency situations and must operate in strict adherence to the established policies, rules, and regulations formulated by HFD to ensure a volunteer’s safety as well as effective and coordinated emergency response services (see “Exhibit D” attached hereto); now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAIʻI that it strongly urges the Office of the Mayor to increase capacity and funding for the Hawaiʻi Fire Department, in order to enhance its ability to prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfires and other emergencies.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Office of the Mayor allocate funding and assist with securing grants for wildfire prevention, to support the development of comprehensive mitigation strategies such as improving forest and watershed health, and enhancing community preparedness.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that adequate funding for firefighter training, apparatus, equipment and facilities maintenance be provided in Hawaiʻi County’s annual budgets to ensure that HFD is equipped to carry out its mission effectively.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that an assessment of the volunteer fire department’s effectiveness and sustainability be completed, with a subsequent recommendation regarding the program’s feasibility and future.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the County Clerk shall transmit copies of this resolution to the Honorable Mayor Mitchell D. Roth, the Managing Director, the Director of the Department of Finance, the Chief of the Hawaiʻi Fire Department, the Director of the Department of Research and Development, members of the Hawaiʻi County Fire Commission, and the President of the Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association.