Kahului, MAUI — A fire engine, gifted to the Maui Fire Department from the Menlo Park Fire District in California, will soon go into service in Maui County. The new engine will help fill the gap created when two fire apparatus, Engine 1 from Wailuku and Wildland 3, were lost in the Lahaina wildfire on Aug. 8.
“This donation is nothing short of a life-saving contribution to our community,” said Maui Fire Chief Brad Ventura during a dedication ceremony held on Thursday afternoon at the Kahului Fire Station.
“A fire truck is a symbol of hope in a community. Whenever a fire truck is driving down the road—whether it’s going to a call or just moving from district to district—the community knows that the fire truck is there to help them,” said Chief Ventura. “Without fire stations in a community, communities are incomplete; and without apparatus such as this, and the ones that we have, and the equipment on them, a fire station is incomplete,” he said.
Although all other fire apparatus on Maui are yellow, the donated engine will keep its bright red coat and will go into service without delay.
The name “Pilina” (lit. relationship or coming together) was bestowed upon the engine, highlighting the special bond that has been forged between the two communities and the fire department brotherhood worldwide.
Maui firefighter Kapa Palakiko explained that the Hawaiian name gifted to trucks usually references the district or characteristics of the places they serve. For this truck, he said, an effort was made to choose a word that references not only the relationship with the community, but the bond that exists with other fire departments.
“That word ‘pilina’ is a connection and now and forever, we’ll always have a connection between our fire districts, departments and members. When we take this truck out of this bay and we go to work, we’ll be taking you guys and your spirit with us,” said Chief Ventura. “We will forever be connected,” he said.
Mark Lorenzen, Fire Chief for the Menlo Park Fire District also spoke at the dedication event. He said, “We wouldn’t be here if Chief Ventura, and Deputy Chief, [Gavin] Fujioka hadn’t used one powerful word. When I reached out by email to see if we could help and maybe offer up something that would be helpful to them, they said ‘yes.’”
Chief Lorenzen expressed gratitude saying, “You are letting us be part of your healing—the healing in the fire department and in your community of Lahaina, and the island of Maui. It’s so very special for us to be a part of that healing.”
The donated apparatus came right off the front lines, and had never been in reserve status, according to Chief Lorenzen. “She has served our communities in the Bay Area so well over the years and we are so happy that she can serve your community and protect your residents and your firefighters for many years to come,” he said.
“Throughout this disaster, we’ve had a lot of offers, and not all of them materialize,” said Chief Ventura. “So we cannot express enough how grateful we are that they stayed with their organization, steadfast, to what they started to bring this to fruition.”
Lahaina resident Rick Nava, who serves as a member of Mayor Richard Bissen’s Lahaina Advisory Team, met Virginia Chang Kiraly, Director Menlo Park Fire Protection District at a Rotary Club event in California as a fundraiser for Lahaina.
“This team,” which also includes the West Maui Taxpayers Association, “is also part of another team that is part of our public-private partnership that we’re working on for the Olowalu Fire Station. In Maui it’s not 6 degrees of separation—it’s two. This is an example here of how you can go to something in the middle of California, and you can meet people from Maui and the next thing you know, you’re sitting at a ceremony for a fire truck being donated,” said Chief Ventura.
“It is an honor for us to be here and for you to allow us to be a part of your recovery,” said Chang Kiraly. “The Bay Area has such a connection to the state of Hawaiʻi, the island of Maui, and all of the islands, really. There was absolutely no hesitation in trying to get something put together to help with your relief and your recovery,” she said.
“A fire truck is essential to every community in a disaster—which California faces, and we recently faced. You do not have enough fire trucks. So for you to be able to give up one of those to us means a ton, and we appreciate it very much,” said Chief Ventura.
“To be honest with you, had Lahaina not happened that day, we had a national disaster up here in the mountain. I don’t want people to forget that both parts of our island were affected, heavily that week, that month, and ongoing as we move forward to rebuild,” said Chief Ventura.
Maui Council member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who represents the Upcountry area that also suffered property loss during the Aug. 8 wildfires said, “This symbolizes much more than you can imagine because it really represents taxpayer’s dollars that may be a savings in the long run.”
For the two vehicles lost in the Lahaina fire, the cost (after insurance) to the county was estimated at about $662,000, according to Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Geisea. “We believe FEMA should be reimbursing us for 90% of that,” he said. “So, when that’s all said and done, a good $595,000 should be coming back to the county.”
Fire officials say FEMA could possibly reimburse 100% of that cost if it falls within a 90-day window.
“When we get new fire trucks, we don’t discard the old ones,” said AC Geisea said during a recent meeting. “We try to keep them available as backups for when primary apparatus need repairs, as well as when we have callback crews for major emergencies… We’re operationally good to go,” he said when asked about department readiness, noting that the donated truck will supplement the department’s relief fleet.
The donation comes after the recent addition of a the new Engine 8 on Lānaʻi that was already scheduled for deployment.