Kona International Airport’s new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility is big.
Just how big?
Fire Chief Mervin Kahumoku offered several ways to put the new space, dedicated Wednesday morning, into perspective. The old rescue and fire station, which the department will continue to use until about September, would take up just three-fourths of the space inside the new facility’s apparatus bay, he said.
Put another way, someone could park 10 Roberts Hawaii-size tour buses inside the bay — which doesn’t account for all of the office space, sleeping areas, training rooms, conference rooms and an observation area on the second floor, from which firefighters can see the entire runway — and still have room for five cars.
The 24,000-square-foot facility cost $19.3 million, with just more than $17 million coming from federal coffers, via the Federal Aviation Administration. The state picked up the remainder of the tab for the station, which has five drive-through bays within the apparatus area. The station is home to 25 employees, Kahumoku and 24 firefighters and captains.
“As I flew in this morning, I got chills as I saw this ARFF facility glistening in the sun,” Nan Inc. Vice President Frank Okimoto said during the ceremony.
When the company was awarded the project, he looked at the site and saw “rock, rock, rock and more rock.”
But as they stripped the first layer of lava rock, to some of the hardest rock, sometimes called blue rock, Okimoto said he saw something else.
“I knew the rock would be a solid foundation for this building,” he said. “This building would be a solid foundation for the fire department.”
Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, said he was grateful to see the building near completion.
“It’s going to make Kona a safer place for our families and our children,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Kahu Brian Boshard performed the traditional blessing, prior to the untying of the maile lei across the front of one of the bay doors. His father, also a pastor in Kona, did the blessing for the airport four decades ago, Department of Transportation Interim Deputy Director Ross Higashi said.
“When I stand here, I realize how much growth has occurred since the airport opened in the 1970s,” Boshard said.
Higashi said the fire station will help the firefighters who work there continue to be ready for emergencies.
“We all hope such emergencies never occur,” Higashi said. “But we must prepare and be vigilant every day.”