(BIVN) – During the annual Waimea Community Association dinner event held in honor of first responders on Wednesday, November 15th, volunteer firefighters were singled out for appreciation.
“This is the 7th year WCA has honored first responders and this year the spotlight will be on the volunteers across our island, with special focus on our region’s two volunteer fire departments – 9 Alpha and 9 Bravo, who do so much to support our career firefighters and other responders,” said WCA President James Hustace in a news release.
“While many of these individuals humbly insist they are just doing a job they get paid for, these men and women deserve recognition more than ever in light of recent wildfires fed by extremely high, hurricane and weather induced winds,” said Nancy Carr Smith, the WCA Director who is coordinating the dinner gathering.
There are 16 active volunteer fire groups on the island of Hawaiʻi; the only island in the state that has volunteers to supplement the county’s firefighting force.
“We’re on call 24/7,” said Mike Shattuck, the Captain of 9 Bravo volunteers. “This radio is my leash, this how dispatch reaches me. If I’m unavailable, a couple of my officers might get the call, and they’ll put it out to the rest of the gang. Since we’re volunteers, a lot of us have jobs. So, we’ll be limited as to how many people
are available, especially in the middle of the night. Maybe they have to go to work in a few hours. Some of them may not have to, and that’s how we put our crew together. And that’s how we roll.”
However, the honor was bittersweet for the volunteers, after the sudden loss of one of their own. A large photo of the late Captain Steve Grasso, draped in lei, took center stage that evening.
“Our sad news is that the captain of the Waikiʻi Volunteer Fire Station passed away two days ago,” said Smith, concerning the sudden death of Grasso. “It’s still very
fresh and raw. We expected Steve Grasso to be here, and he’s gone. So it’s going to be hard. We’re going to dedicate this evening to him and we’ll be spending some time reflecting on that.”