POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Firefighters and rescue personnel from around Hawaii Island converged upon the U.S. Army facility on Saturday for its first-ever Firemen’s Muster.
A fire muster, simply defined, is a gathering of various fire units for the purpose of competition. However, for participants it often means camaraderie and the opportunity to meet and work with others in the same field.
“It helps bring together the different responding agencies from around the island,” said Pohakuloa Training Area Deputy Fire Chief Eric Moller, who hails from New York and has taken part in various musters over the years. “It’s also a fun time to share stories and creates a rapport that helps streamline operations during an emergency.
“There’s also bragging rights you get from winning events.”
Saturday’s fire muster included events for both adults and kids. The adults competed individually in victim rescue, forcible entry, hose drag and hose advance and in teams for the first water, midnight alarm and bucket brigade events.
About two dozen firefighters and rescue personnel took part in the Big Island Firemen’s Muster with family and friends.
Hawaii Fire Department Volunteer Station 7 Bravo firefighter Matt Mamhot said the event was “awesome.” He made the comment after he had just completed the midnight alarm, which requires a team of four to lay on cots, quickly get up, and dress in full firefighting garb. The team with the quickest time wins.
“It keeps the camaraderie going and improves morale,” he said. “It’s fun getting all together.”
For Pohakuloa Training Area Fire Department and Emergency Services Capt. Rick Kalauli, the event is a good way to meet counterparts that often are only seen during an emergency situation.
“It’s good to be able to know the guys instead of just yelling ‘hey’ and not knowing their names,” he said.
The idea for the muster at PTA developed in July 2012 with arrival of Cmdr. Eric Shwedo, who wanted to see more interaction between the various fire departments other than Fire Prevention Week, Moller said. PTA and the Hawaii Fire Department have a mutual aid agreement.
“Any time there is a fire on state, county or federal land, one department can’t fully extinguish it without the other,” said PTA Assistant Fire Chief John Vierra. “There is not one of us who can successfully put out a fire without the aid of the other.”
PTA also wants the public to know that its civilian fire department is part of the community and here to serve. Vierra said it often occurs that when PTA personnel arrive on the scene of an incident people don’t know that they even existed.
“We’re not secret,” he said. “We’re here and ready to respond. We look forward to helping our community.”
While still in its infancy, the hope is that the muster will become a larger event and rotate between various fire departments on the island.
“We hope this is going to grow and attract more personnel,” Moller said. “And, perhaps get some of the outer island personnel here, too.”