Kalaupapa Lacks Adequate Fire Personnel

By Melissa Kelsey

Until last summer, two trained state firefighters stationed at Kalaupapa Airport provided reliable fire safety for both air traffic and the peninsula’s residents. Those personnel were transferred out of Kalaupapa after state airport regulations determined that not enough passengers arrive on incoming Kalaupapa flights to warrant their employment, according to Kalaupapa National Park Service (NPS) Superintendent Steve Prokop.

Almost a year later, there are only two NPS rangers in Kalaupapa certified to operate the NPS fire truck in the settlement, and Prokop said government regulations require three for its operation in the event of a fire. As a result, he said the two rangers would be acting out of compliance with the law if they operated the fire engine without a third firefighter.

More closely scrutinizing the situation at the Kalaupapa town meeting last Tuesday, resident Marco Jordan wondered out loud what would happen if the two trained rangers were not on the peninsula at the time a building caught fire. Jordan and other community members debated the proper ethical response to the possible scenario.

Jordan said he did not think he would pause to remember, “Wait! I am not trained!” in the event of a fire.

Prokop said the NPS wants to hire more rangers who are qualified for firefighting, but cited difficulties securing funding. He also noted that Kalaupapa, along with other small, rural communities in the United States, struggles to maintain a volunteer firefighting task force as a result of increased national standards for volunteers that include time intensive training.

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