Firefighter disciplined after reportedly ‘reeking of alcohol’ while on duty

A Hawaii island firefighter is being disciplined for having alcohol in his system while on duty.

The fire chief for the Hawaii Fire Department says the firefighter’s blood alcohol level did not exceed the legal limit, so no law was broken, but the firefighter still violated department rules.

When Paula Honda called for an ambulance for her grandmother in Waiakea, she noticed that the driver did not seem right. Some firefighters on Hawaii island are also trained as paramedics.

“He was very red. He was reeking of alcohol. He was also chewing gum. He really didn’t ask very many questions himself,” she said.

Honda says she called the fire department right away to report it because she was afraid something terrible might happen.

“Not only our safety, but other people on the road. We could have gotten into a car accident. I don’t know how intoxicated he was,” Honda said.

Hawaii County Fire Chief Darren Rosario says the firefighter was tested after it was reported, and the firefighter admitted that he was drinking the night before, which is why he smelled of alcohol.

“Following the testing, the employee was not legally inebriated or anything, however there was alcohol in his system that did not meet our department standards and our expectations for all employees,” Rosario said.

“How much time had elapsed when he was driving that patient over to the time he was tested?” KHON2 asked.

“I believe there was maybe less than an hour’s time,” Rosario replied.

Rosario could not say how much alcohol the firefighter had in his system or what type of punishment he’s been given due to privacy concerns.

“I would say it is not close to the legal limit of alcohol intoxication, however, once again, any alcohol in the employee’s system while at work is not tolerated,” Rosario said.

We reached out to the firefighters’ union and learned that members are given random tests for drugs and alcohol.

Those with a blood alcohol content of .02 to .04 percent are suspended one shift. If it’s higher than that, they’re suspended four shifts.

“There will be a period of suspension and also having to go through a substance abuse professional to get a determination of the level of the problem,” explained Bobby Lee, president, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

Honda says she’s pleased that the fire department dealt with the problem right away, and even contacted her to let her know.

She hopes that nothing like this happens again: “It’s just not tolerable. Without question, it’s something that should not even take place.”

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