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Despite renovated quarters, federal firefighters on Hawaii Island say they’re living in Quonset huts

Federal inspectors are investigating health and safety complaints made by firefighters at the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:36 PM HST|Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 7:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal inspectors are investigating health and safety complaints made by firefighters at the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island.

The federal firefighters say they made a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration in March and investigators arrived a week later.

They said they were using breathing apparatus and N95 masks without proper fit testing, the HVAC system wasn’t removing gases from the trucks, and safety rules were not being followed.

Related Coverage: Federal firefighters at Hawaii Island training area battle Army over safety, retaliation complaints

“Management stated several times it’s a funding issue and tried to blame it on Oahu,” said one federal firefighter at Pohakuloa, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“OSHA openly stated that money should not be an issue,” the firefighter added.

Firefighters also say they’ve been living in the decades old Quonset huts since 2016 ― unable to move into a multi-million dollar renovated fire station because of a series of building blunders.

“The contractor didn’t put a sprinkler system in the living quarters of the station,” said Kaanapu Jacobsen, union president of Federal Fire Fighters of Hawaii.

Firefighters say they built a makeshift kitchen outside the Quonset hut, are exposed to the extreme Pohakuloa elements, rats and even washed dishes in the same area as their toilet and shower.

“We’ve come to a point now we’ve exhausted all of that. We’ve done everything we could do as well as live in these conditions for a prolonged period of time. We feel this is our last resort,” said another federal firefighter at Pohakuloa, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“It’s upsetting. They bust their okole up there. They take care of the land,” said Jacobsen.

The Army did not respond to HNN’s questions about the OSHA inspection.

“While we acknowledge there have been several delays, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is in the final stages of transitioning to a new, and much needed, fire station on PTA,” Michael O. Donnelly, chief of external communications at U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said in a statement.

“The U.S. Army’s Installation and Management Command will conduct a staff assistance visit of the PTA Fire Department next week to identify areas for improvement,” the statement added.

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