The federal firefighters union in Hawaii is calling attention to what it says is an issue of public safety.
The union claims people who are not trained and familiar with the airport area are being brought in to work as firefighters.
For nearly a year, Federal Firefighters of Hawaii says Air Force reservists have been filling positions meant for civilian firefighters. The union claims it’s easier and cheaper, but risky.
“They’re weekend warrior firefighters on the mainland. Some of them might be plumbers, some of them might be electricians, but they’re in the Air Force Reserves as firefighters,” said Reid Shimabukuro, president of Federal Firefighters of Hawaii.
The union claims the reservists are brought here for short periods of time.
Part of their job at the fire station at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is to help with military and commercial airline emergencies at Honolulu International Airport.
Union officials don’t believe the reservists have enough experience.
“We have reservists that are coming in that are basically here on a two-week vacation. They’re untrained, they’re unfamiliar with the Honolulu International Airport,” Shimabukuro said.
Not so, says the Navy, which said in an email: “These reservists are qualified Air Force firefighters assigned here for active duty periods”.
And while the federal firefighters union believes this is a public safety issue, the Navy says “there is no risk from this practice.”
The union claims the reservists who are coming here are not EMTs, which is a standard for the department.
“We did have a cardiac arrest in which some of these reservists really didn’t know what to do,” Shimabukuro said.
A Navy spokesperson says the majority of reservists are qualified EMTs.
There are 243 federal firefighters across the state. Right now, there are 14 vacancies, which the military is looking to fill.
The union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice against the Navy and is waiting for a decision.