Moiliili, a neighborhood in Honolulu, HI, recently made headlines when a high-rise apartment building went up in flames. The fire resulted in three fatalities and more than $100,000 in damage to the building. Since then, the Honolulu Fire Department has been under scrutiny from its own firefighters as well as residents of the high-rise for a number of reasons, including:
- The president of the fire department’s union received complaints from firefighters on the crew claiming they did not have the proper resources to effectively respond to this fire.
- When fires of this size occur, members of the executive staff are typically on the scene. There were no members of the executive staff present, leaving the crew without proper leadership.
- Months later, the department is still unsure what initially caused the fire, and residents have grown frustrated with the lack of answers.
- Asbestos policies were not followed after the fire, risking contamination of any areas near the fire or touched by firefighter equipment.
Firefighting is One of the Highest Risk Occupations for Asbestos Exposure
Firefighters battle extreme conditions at their jobs, so it is essential to follow safety protocol throughout the entire process – not only while the fire is being suppressed, but even after the flames have died. While several errors may have occurred throughout this firefight, the crew’s failure to comply with basic asbestos policies could be the most damaging. Asbestos fibers can cause deadly diseases when inhaled or ingested, so the policies are in place to prevent contamination.
The president of the department’s union stated, “You want to collect all of the personal protective equipment of the firefighters, bag it so you don’t contaminate the trucks, take it back to the stations, contaminate the stations, and everything we’ve heard, that wasn’t done.” The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division conducted a thorough investigation and confirmed these accusations were correct and issued the department with a $7,000 fine.