Wednesday | October 18, 2017
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Fire Prevention Week kicks off

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>The bucket brigade competition races to collect water in miniature houses on Bay Front during Fire Prevention Week kickoff activities with the Hawaii County Fire Department on Saturday afternoon.</p>


Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Hawaii Fire Department used fun and games to drive home a serious message at Saturday’s Fire Prevention Week kickoff event on the Hilo Bayfront: Prevent kitchen fires.

Fire Prevention Week starts today and runs through Saturday, and according to the National Fire Prevention Association website, “More fires start in the kitchen than in any other place in the home.”

Demonstrations included mock-ups of a kitchen fire and extrication from a wrecked car using the Jaws of Life to peel back the vehicle’s roof.

Dozens of firefighters and recruits, several of the county’s bright yellow fire trucks and the county’s helicopter were among the attractions that brought 300 or so people, mostly families with children, to the festivities. There were games for the keikis, including one in which they used small, low-pressure hoses to extinguish imaginary fires.

Joe Cutsinger of Mountain View watched his 6-year-old granddaughter, Joslyn, shoot water at the flames, which were painted on a piece of plywood.

“She’s having a good time,” he said.

Meanwhile, adults — firefighters and civilians alike — participated in the ever-popular bucket brigade.

Robert Wall, a HAZMAT specialist at the Makalei Fire Station in Kona, served as the event’s emcee, providing play-by-play during bucket brigade and constantly warning teams about stepping over the yellow line on the pavement, a rules violation. He cracked jokes about “cheaters” and quipped that the water — which was fresh — had been provided by “Waste Management.”

“It’s fun for me,” Wall said. Asked if there’s pressure on teams of firefighters, volunteer firefighters and firefighter recruits to outshine civilians in the relay exercise, he replied: “I hope so.”

“We require them, unofficially, to do better,” he said.

The bucket brigade features teams of five people who have 90 seconds to relay small buckets of water from an open tank to throw from a distance of about 10 feet onto the roof of a miniature house about the size of a medium-sized doghouse. The object is to get as much of the water as possible to fall through a hole in the roof about four inches in diameter. After time is expired, the judges remove the roofs from the four houses, revealing buckets inside. Whichever team’s bucket contains most water wins the heat.

Home Depot, whose logo adorns the bucket brigade houses, entered the competition, as did State Farm Insurance, whose team went by the nickname “Bucketeers.”

“We’re having a great time,” said State Farm’s Maureen Ignacio. “It’s a good family event.”

A grant from State Farm funds the department’s arson dog, Ka‘imi, a 6-year-old yellow male Labrador retriever who’s been with his handler, Capt. Robert Perreira of the Fire Inspector’s office, for five years.

“We’re Hawaii’s first and only arson K9 team,” Perreira said, adding that he and Ka‘imi were trained and certified through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

“It’s a five-week training up in Maine,” he said. “I met Ka‘imi up there in 2008; his name wasn’t Ka‘imi at the time. He was about a year old and his name was Duke. I renamed him Ka‘imi because I wanted it to be in Hawaiian. Ka‘imi means ‘the seeker,’ and that’s his job. He’s trained to seek what we’re looking for, traces of accelerants.

“When we went through training, he was there with other canines and the trainer really, really liked how he worked. And he said at the end of the training that the group from Hawaii was probably the strongest in the class.”

Perreira said that Ka‘imi goes home with him at night and has become the family dog. He described him as “very protective” and good with children. He estimated that in the time they’ve worked together, he and Ka‘imi have been called in by investigators about 100 times.

“In five years, 25 percent of the fires we’ve investigated are either arson, or there’s some sort of ignitable liquid at the scene,” he said.

Perreira said that he and Ka‘imi re-certify yearly.

“The re-certifications are held in different states every year,” he said. “We’ve been to Maine twice, and we’ve been to Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. This year, State Farm gave us $5,000 for travel, and we’re going to Washington, D.C., where they’ve got the National Fire Dog Monument. You can go on the website at to learn more about the training program.”

While Ka‘imi and the games are crowd-pleasers, the event’s purpose is education.

“It’s Fire Prevention Week and we thought it was a good time to come out and tell people what they need to do to prevent large losses,” Ignacio said.

The National Fire Prevention Association’s website has a 10-question quiz to test one’s knowledge about kitchen fires. To take the quiz, visit

Email John Burnett at


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