State / In Brief

The Associated Press

Response criticized by union leader

HONOLULU — The leader of Hawaii’s firefighter union has criticized the Honolulu Fire Department’s response to a high-rise apartment building fire in July that killed three people and left scores of apartments uninhabitable.

Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President Bobby Lee said that Honolulu Assistant Chief Ronald Rico is tasked with leading fire emergency response operations but was not at the fire and pulled back a mobile command center that would have helped firefighters as they fought the blaze.

Lee made the comments before the city’s fire commission on Wednesday.

He also criticized Fire Chief Manuel Neves and Deputy Fire Chief Lionel Camara Jr. for not ordering Rico to be on the scene.

“When you look at the senior leadership, their job is to lead, we expect them to lead,” Lee said. “And for whatever reason, at this fire, they chose not to. Some chose to show up. And those that did show up chose not to lead.

“It makes absolutely no sense not to be dispatched for the largest high-rise fire the state has ever seen.”

Neves declined to respond to Lee’s complaints, saying he will do so when a report about the fire is released. He said it is typically up to the assistant chief of operations to decide to be present at a scene.

Fire Commissioner Arnold Wong told Lee that the panel should come back and look further into his concerns after the department completes and makes public its final report on the fire.


Igloo village mulled for Kona homeless

HILO — Hawaii County is considering building a fiberglass igloo village for homeless people in Kona, which would be constructed across from the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Each 314-square-foot igloo could house four people. Officials said that the temperature inside such a dome is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than outside.

Lance Niimi, an executive assistant of the mayor charged with homeless issues, Tuesday presented the idea to the County Council Committee, which in return asked Niimi for a master plan.

The master plan will look at the entire island and also include treatment and employment options for homeless individuals.

Councilman Aaron Chung of Hilo said that the county is looking at a “horrible upward trajectory” of homelessness, and he is afraid transient people will keep moving to the island if they know facilities are available for them.

Niimi, however, said most of the island’s homeless residents have been on the island more than 10 years.

The county selected a 35-acre parcel near the intersection of Kealakehe Parkway and Ane Keohokalole Highway for its homeless housing project, which is the first in what is anticipated to be several scattered around the island.


Big Isle to ban foam food containers

HILO — A ban on foam food containers goes into effect July 1, 2019, on the Big Island.

Mayor Harry Kim said Wednesday that he plans to sign the ban that was passed by the Hawaii County Council. The county will become the second in the state to institute a ban on the plate lunch containers. Maui County’s ban will go into effect Dec. 31, 2018.

Supporters said that the ban is needed to protect marine wildlife. Polystyrene breaks down into minute pieces of plastic that enter the ocean and lodge in the guts of fish and birds that ingest them, they said.

“You put it in the trash can and the trash can is overflowing, and then it’s out there harming the environment,” said bill sponsor Eileen O’Hara, who represents parts of Puna.