2006 starts off 'pretty benign'
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
City Emergency Medical Services Chief Patricia "Patty" Dukes had prepared for the worst, but got what she described as a "pretty benign" New Year's fireworks celebration by O'ahu standards.
"The call volume for us was like a regular Saturday night," said Dukes, who spent the evening driving around and visiting with EMS personnel. "I couldn't help but wonder if the message of staying safe, staying home, and being careful playing fireworks is finally getting through.
"The rush hours for us — 11, 12 and 1 — really seemed quiet," she added. "It was a Saturday night on a payday weekend so we staffed for the worst."
Light trade winds and early morning showers provided some relief to heavy, smoky conditions.
"We were busy," Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Kenison Tejada said, "but in terms of property loss, it was a good year because we didn't have any significant losses."
According to Tejada, 83 of 201 alarms from Friday to 11 a.m. yesterday were fireworks related. During that period, the Fire Department responded to nine structure fires, 95 brushfires, 65 rubbish fires, six Dumpster fires and 26 other fire calls.
Leading up to 2005 New Year's midnight, Tejada said there were 15 fireworks-related incidents — one building, two brush and 10 rubbish fires in addition to two medical calls. In the first eight hours of 2005, there were no brushfires and 13 rubbish fires.
The early morning rain this year was a blessing because of existing dry conditions, he said.
"The timing was perfect," Tejada noted. "The rain started and it was like somebody went out and wet down the island."
Honolulu reported no major fireworks-related injuries.
The Neighbor Islands also reported no major incidents.
Kaua'i firefighters extinguished seven brushfires — four in Kapa'a, two in Waimea and one in Hanalei — from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. yesterday.
Maui firefighters had 28 to 30 total alarms from Saturday through early yesterday, about half of them for small fires. Officials said the fireworks-related calls were much lower this year but statistics were not available.
Big Island numbers were not available but firefighters were busy yesterday fighting brushfires, according to dispatchers.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.