Formed in 1851 under the Hawaiian monarchy and considered the oldest fire department West of the Rocky Mountains, the Honolulu Fire Department is an embodiment of trust and safety for the people and communities of Honolulu county. HFD remains a consistant establishment of security preserved by the integrity of each of its members, starting at the top, through the guidance of the chief.
Since 2006 HFD Chief Kenneth Silva has stood tall as a leader of the HFD, and has made significant progress in improving and maintaining its quality of service even though these past few years have been quite trying for the department.
“I have had an opportunity to lead this department through what is arguably the toughest financial times we’ve been through,” says Silva, who was on MidWeek‘s cover Jan. 13, 2006. “We’ve been stretched and pulled in many different directions. We have been fortunate to avoid layoffs, and there is a tremendous understanding by our current administration of the importance of first responders, and I think that helps us to be a viable and relevant entity for our community.”
Chief Silva is a huge supporter of the Honolulu Fire Commission of which he was only the second fire chief selected. “I think the commission has done a great job of taking the politics out of our decision making, because our decisions should be in the best interest of the community, not based on elections or elected officials,” Silva adds.
Of utmost importance to Silva is Honolulu’s participation as host of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Silva was able to visit the conference last year when it was hosted in Yokohama, Japan, and that has helped his preparation tactics.“It is going to be the biggest security initiative what we have experienced in our jurisdiction. We have a finite amount of resources, though, and are honing our skills at incident command and making our communication system more robust, really working on the inter-communication between various agencies,” says Silva. “APEC in Yokohama was good for their economy, for their business community. And it really helped enhance the capabilities of their first responders and their standing in the international community, and I see those same elements happening here.”
Another important initiative Chief Silva and his staff are working on is the possibility of merging HFD with EMS and Ocean Safety organizations, which Silva believes would project a more efficient and cost-effective service for all organizations.“This is a huge opportunity. I am committed to providing the ultimate service to the community and making sure the workforces are as trained and as motivated as they need to be to have success,” he adds.
A community project which is gaining ground is the Honolulu Fire Fighters Foundation. Created in 2009, HFFF is a nonprofit organization that has teamed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers starting the Safe Program, which gives safety presentations and installing smoke detectors in homes of the elderly and in at-risk communities. Nearly 5,000 smoke detectors have been installed since the program began.
What has gathered significant attention from the public is the recent passing of the fireworks ban, which now prohibits the use of fireworks products without a specialized permit. Chief Silva took a strong stance on working to have this law passed and enforced, something he says was necessary to avoid public harm.
“I came up through the ranks and became a battalion chief for the fire prevention bureau and got exposed to fire issues and their problems nation wide. I think it is a huge leap forward in terms of safety. Wearing the fire chief’s hat, I believe this is one of the best measures we’ve passed in recent history,” says Silva.
Silva has strong about his experience in fire service and for those who may have an interest in becoming a fire fighter.
“The fire service isn’t for everybody. If you are built for it, you won’t have a more rewarding career. It is very difficult because you are constantly learning and maintaining new skills. We are a hands-on organization, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a day that I woke up and said I do not want to go to work.”
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