State to relist decommissioned fire boat, no plans to replace it

The city used to have a fire boat before it was taken out of service in 2014.

The Moku Ahi once responded to emergencies inside Honolulu Harbor and along Oahu’s south shore, from Kalaeloa Deep Draft Harbor to Hawaii Kai.

After 24 years, HFD took it out of service in 2014 and passed its ownership back to the state. It sat unused for years before the state decided to sell it.

The old Moku Ahi was commissioned in 1990. It replaced the Honolulu Fire Department’s first fire boat apparatus, the Abner T. Longly, which HFD said was commissioned into service in 1951.

Moku Ahi is still anchored at a pier just off of Nimitz Highway. Back in October 2016, the state put the old fire boat up for sale. The state added the buyer was responsible for removing it from the harbor.

Hawaii Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige said the state is relisting the boat for sale.

The Moku Ahi was taken out of service in March 2014 because of a leak in the vessel’s steel hull.

Kunishige says it cost $1.8 million in 2012 to operate the fire boat, and $1.6 million in 2013. This included salaries for Honolulu Fire Department firefighters manning the boat, as well as annual maintenance costs.

HFD says “at this time, HFD has no plans to pursue another fire boat.”

In a statement, the state says:

“The Moku Ahi was taken out of service in March 2014 when a leak was discovered in the vessel’s steel hull. Costs to operate the Moku Ahi prior to the discovery of the hull breach were $1.8 million for fiscal year 2012 and $1.6 million in fiscal year 2013; this includes Honolulu Fire Department salaries (which were funded by HDOT Harbors Division) and annual maintenance costs.

As commercial harbor fire protection issues evolve, HDOT Harbors Division and the Hawaii Harbor Users Group has worked together to determine the best strategy for fire protection in the state’s commercial harbors. HDOT Harbors Division has replaced many wooden piers with concrete and will be installing fire sprinkler systems in the new Kapalama Container Terminal to address fire risk. Larger vessels are also required by federal standards to have their own fire protection and suppression systems, while the Honolulu Fire Department responds to pier-side vessel fires.”

We spoke with Rep. Gene Ward, who is part of the state House finance committee, to see if there is money for a new fire boat.

“Unless we have a number of them, it’s probably not practical, and it depends on the cost,” he said. “I know it’s not cheap, but it should be something that’s examined. Fiscally, we’re in tight straits. I just came from the finance committee so I know those are the numbers. It’s tight times.”

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