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Dedicated volunteer firefighters to build appliance garage

Before the fire of 2010 hit the Anekona/Kanehoa community, Guido Giacometti had already been working to set up a nonprofit organization for donations to volunteer firefighters. As president of the Anekona/O’uli/Kanehoa Volunteer Fire Department, and part of the 9 Bravo volunteer unit, Giacometti said people were still getting certified to fight fires, and they needed equipment. The local Fire Department had provided a brush truck, a vehicle which helps put out wild fires, but Giacometti said the Fire Department required a larger vehicle.

“The little truck they provided was breaking down, and we acquired a truck from the surplus auctions in Kapolei,” Giacometti said. “Young Brothers shipped it to the Big Island for free, the Hilo Fire Department checked it out for us, and we put a 1,200 gallon tank on it. You can find it parked at Mike Shattuck’s house.”

Hawaii Island, with its land mass of 4,028 square miles, needs a lot of firefighters to stay on alert. According to Captain Komatsu, in an earlier North Hawaii News feature, it is the only island with volunteer fire fighters. Started in the 1960’s, volunteers in the mostly rural areas were trained by the Hawaii Fire Department to assist the paid firefighters.

There are 27 volunteer companies on the island. Three volunteer fire stations cover the North Hawaii area: North Kohala (Kohala Estates), Anekona/Kanehoa, and Pu’uanahulu. Manned with volunteers who all have varied backgrounds, trades and skills, the volunteer firefighters take on additional responsibility for no additional pay. By using a pager system, most of the volunteers are on call 24 hours a day with the Hawaii County Fire Department. Those that can make it, show up when a fire occurs — adding another layer of protection in fire-prone areas.

As part of the fundraising efforts to properly house their vehicles, the volunteers of 9 Bravo are raising monies to build a volunteer appliance garage. Unlike a fire station which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a volunteer appliance garage stores the equipment. Located halfway between Waimea town and the Maunalani Fire Station, 9 Bravo has secured a level property with a 99-year lease. Mike Shattuck, captain of 9-B Volunteer Fire Company, said they have just installed a water meter on the three-acre piece of land.

“We got a $9,000 grant from the Richard Smart Foundation, which will pay for the subdivision of the property,” said Giacometti. “We continue to ask for donations and write grants, and we are hopeful we will get the total of $200,000 that we need to build it.”

Giacometti said the actual volunteer appliance garage is a very simple building, but it takes a lot of effort on the part of the volunteers to keep the building costs down. He said there is an architect who is offering his time for the drawings, contractors and designers are who are assisting for no pay, they have a capable builder acting as their general contractor, and engineers who are volunteering their services.

“One of our neighbors does permitting as a profession, and we have to get a special permit to build on an ag zone lot,” Giacometti said. “We hope to be in the building at the end of the year.”

There are currently 14 certified volunteer fire fighters at 9 Bravo, who donate their expertise and time to stop the brushfires that threaten homes in the area.

The AOK Volunteer Fire Department is not planning to own the fire trucks or the building, but will eventually donate the lease and building to the County of Hawaii.

For more information or to make donations, call Giacometti at 896-3849. Visit Hawaii Island Fire Volunteers at www.hvfca.net to learn more.