Honolulu Fire Department Addresses Recent Response Time Criticism

HONOLULU --

The Honolulu Fire Department responded to criticism that Makiki firefighters took too long to get to a fire across the street.

The fire started just before 2:15 a.m. Sunday at the Makikian apartment building on Piikoi St. and Wilder Ave. The fire station is yards away, on the other side of Piikoi.

Investigators said the fire started with a malfunctioning electrical outlet in the bedroom of a second floor unit. "I heard crackling. And I knew it was the fire. I grabbed my cell phone. Immediately called 911. It was 2:15," said Makikian resident Don Cresciman.

The Honolulu Fire Department said firefighters were on the scene four minutes later. "Our records show that this company was out of the station and across the street by 2:19 a.m.," said HFD Captain Terry Seelig.

However, some Makikian residents said they were disappointed and upset by what they call a slow response by firefighters.

"What seemed like 12 to 15 minutes in which there was no response," said Cresciman. "I kept turning to look at the fire department. The lights were out, it was totally quiet. We waited there and we looked and other people were shouting and a second person went over, knocked on the door. They work really hard, but something went wrong the other night."

"I mean, we live right across the street from these guys. And we figured we could count on them when the time came for us to be in need," said Makikian resident Patrick Day.

Seelig said nine companies were underway within three minutes of receiving the call. He said firefighters have one minute to don their protective gear and one minute to board the fire truck. "Within a couple minutes, they would have had water flowing out of the truck," Seelig said.

For this fire, Seelig said firefighters chose a deck monitor to extinguish the fire. "(It's) a large appliance that can deliver a volume of water upwards of 250 gallons a minute, to 500 gallons a minute," Seelig said.

Seelig said fire calls, the arrival of firefighters at the time fires are contained and extinguished are all time stamped. But he acknowledges fire scenes are chaotic.

"It's really confusing when a fire is going on, as to what's occurring, who's there, what's happening," Seelig said.

The three-story walk up is an older apartment building, with hollow tiles and concrete walls. But Seelig said redwood louvers and the air flow caused the fire to spread rapidly.

"A flashed over fire in one unit, lapping into the second unit and extending to two others. I truly empathize with their situation of having to see a fire burn before it's put under control and seconds can seem like minutes," Seelig said.

Seelig said firefighters treated this fire the same way they do all others in the way of tactics and strategies. As usual, there is a post-fire review.

The fire destroyed two units and damaged four others. Investigators said the fire caused a total of $250,000 in damage.

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