The Hawaii Fire Department is responsible for several types of first response on the Big Island, including firefighting, emergency medical services and lifeguards on the island’s public beaches.
One of the critical positions within the department is fire equipment operator — the individual who drives the fire engine and operates and maintains the engine and its equipment, including the pumps.
Fire Equipment Operator Lono Lindsey was nominated by his bosses in 2018 for Hawaii County Employee of the Year. Assistant Fire Chief Darwin Okinaka said the 39-year-old Lindsey, who works at the Waimea Fire Station, is “really humble and has a really great attitude and work ethic.”
Lindsey, a Waimea native and graduate of Hawaii Preparatory Academy and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief. He said the knowledge of mechanics his military job required “translates, for sure” in his current job “because you’re also responsible for the maintenance of the truck.”
“There is some correlation. The trucks are a little bit different, though,” Lindsey said. “It’s a great job. It’s challenging because there are a lot of different things we can respond to. And our job generally entails helping people in the community, and now that I’m back in Waimea, people I grew up with, especially.”
Okinaka said Lindsey, who has also worked in the department’s training bureau as a driver trainer and has been a firefighter/emergency medical technician at the Ocean View station, always strives to increase his professional knowledge and skills.
“We have cost restrictions in our department with funding and budgetary constraints,” Okinaka said. “He doesn’t hesitate to spend his own money to travel to attend training sessions to make himself a better firefighter. He’s done that numerous times, and he comes back and shares his knowledge with the department.”
An eight-year department veteran, Lindsey has responded to major fires, including a 2015 brush fire that ignited harvested logs near the deep-draft harbor in Kawaihae.
The Waimea station also responds to an average of six motor vehicle collisions a month, and last year Lindsey was one of the trainers teaching recruits the best methods to extricate crash victims from vehicles.
“The hands-on, skills portion is so important, having the repetitions, using the tools and also seeing different vehicles,” he told West Hawaii Today in November. “Although there will be similarities at crashes, there are differences.”
“The fact that he does so much behind the scenes is, to me, really valuable to our employees as an example,” Okinaka said. “He’s an outstanding firefighter.”
Hawaii County’s fire department is unique in that all firefighters are also required to train and be certified as emergency medical technicians. For some, being an EMT becomes their primary mission within the department. Some take that even further, as in the case of Jeremy Tekurio.
The 31-year-old Tekurio, a 11-year department veteran, has become a paramedic, giving him certification to administer certain medications and to “intubate” patients — meaning to insert a breathing tube into the trachea — on an emergency basis.
Tekurio has spent the bulk of his career at Hilo’s Central Fire Station.
“As far as medics, we are the busiest station on the island,” Tekurio said. “I help with training. I go in and help with the EMT class, helping the recruits. And I am part of the CPR instructor team, as well.”
Calls for service, Tekurio said, cover “pretty much anything you can think of.”
“I’ve gone to vehicle accidents, shootings, stabbings, drownings — pretty much everything. And islandwide, we all share that responsibility,” he said.
Tekurio’s commitment to caring for the sick and injured was recognized in May as he received a commendation from Gov. David Ige in Honolulu during Emergency Medical Services week.
“He has a lot of passion, he’s very smart and knowledgeable and he has a really good bedside manner. He takes good care of the people of our island,” said Fire Battalion Chief Chris Honda. “He’s been on a lot of our big cases here in Hilo and he’s always handled himself really well.”
One of the more critical calls for service was on March 28, when a bedridden man shot his estranged wife in their upper Kaiwiki Road home.
“He went in with law enforcement and took care of the victim who was injured,” Honda said. “That’s not an everyday call for us. It was very admirable what he did and it was a very positive outcome for the patient. The suspect was detained and it was safe, but it was still a very tense situation.”
The victim was taken to Hilo Medical Center in critical condition, but has since improved and was discharged from the hospital.
“I think she’s doing good now,” Tekurio said. “We ended up intubating her — putting a tube down her throat to help her breathe. She had surgery shortly after that and, I believe, she made a full recovery.”
Tekurio said he loves his job because of “just helping people.”
“I hope to be a paramedic throughout my career,” he said. “I’m just going to continue training, studying, so I can better myself.
“The thing for me is being there when people are going through their worst times and trying to help them. We don’t always get the outcomes that we like. Sometimes, we lost patients, and those are really hard. But knowing that we were doing everything we could to help them, that’s good to take home every day.”