Lawmakers sound off on idle fire boat

Moku Ahi

The state says it plans to replace an aging boat used to fight fires at Honolulu Harbor.

Moku Ahi is nearly 25 years old and was removed from service last October, when firefighters found a leak in the hull. A total of 12 firefighters man the boat and have been performing other duties like responding to other fire-related calls or medical emergencies.

“Like every apparatus, the crew here spends a large part of their day making sure that all the equipment that’s still on board the boat is functional and that they know how to use it,” Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Dept. said Thursday. “It’s not like they’re sitting around doing nothing.”

KHON2 asked state lawmakers what they thought about taxpayers continuing to pay for something that can’t be used.

“The governments only get money from the taxpayers and the taxpayers, particularly in Hawaii right now, are struggling,” said Sen. Sam Slom (R), Transportation Committee. “It’s not a question of whether the firefighters are doing a good job. Everybody appreciates and respects them and training is important, but is this really the best use of our funds?”

On June 30, Moku Ahi will be removed from service permanently, which means Honolulu firefighters will no longer be manning the vessel come July 1.

“If you’re not using it, I think there could be better uses of time and resources and so, when you know it’s not going to be used afterward, why wait?” Sen. Slom said.

Dept. of Transportation officials say the equipment must be maintained for potential resale and/or salvage value.

Rep. Ryan Yamane (D), House transportation committee chair, says taxpayer money isn’t being wasted. “My understanding is, during that time, there’s a number of training and education and inspections going on and so from what we gathered, the money was used appropriately,” he said.

State officials say Moku Ahi’s replacement will be faster, better equipped and could even reduce the number of staff on board.

As for the future, the state says this is the right time to transition to a new system that will better serve the needs of the harbor.

Related story:

Moku Ahi in its heyday

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