Maui Fire Department gains new planes to fight fires and save more lives

WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Maui Fire Department officials say a new asset will help them cover more ground and save more lives.

“A lot more cargo, a lot more firefighting capability, a lot more rescue capability,” Maui Fire Chief Bradford Ventura said.

It comes at a perfect time as the county sees an alarming number of wildfires.

Just last week, firefighters were forced to battle six consecutive bushfires.

So far this year, the county has responded to 84 bushfires. That’s compared to 71 at the same time last year and 59 the year before.

The new twin-engine helicopter holds three times as much water and nearly three times as many passengers as the old Air 1.

“We have our single district here in Maui County along with all the other islands like Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Maui. In the past we would go to the west side of Molokai and we would be at our limit. We would probably have 5-10 minutes of working time and then we had to come back for fuel. But now we can extend the search for a longer period of time,” said Maui firefighter Dennis Swain Jr.

It also has lifting capabilities so firefighters can now rescue multiple victims at once.

“Compared to the past, we had to do one or two at a time, land, put them in the helicopter, transfer them to a boat, or land and then go again,” Swain said.

The plane is operated by Windward Aviation under a contract with the county.

Windward Aviation also has other helicopters to support Air 1.

“We will be able to bring more firefighting power to the fight against wildfires. We will be able to save more people in larger incidents where we have multiple casualties, which is actually quite common when dealing with incidents of flash flooding, capsizing vessels,” Ventura said.

Chief says there’s nothing else like MFD’s new helicopter in the state.

“As we sort of enter our wildfire season and this year is the year of La Nina, we are anticipating a drier season and an earlier wildfire season. It will be a great addition,” he said.

The new Air 1 will enter service on July 1.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Comments are closed.