Firefighting efforts in South Kohala got a boost Saturday with the donation of a Big Dog wildland tanker truck to the Hawaii Fire Department.
The $453,000 Textron and Howe & Howe 4×4 Big Dog tanker capable of bringing 1,200 gallons of water to remote, hard to access fires was made possible thanks to the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation and an unnamed benefactor. The wildland truck will be stationed at the South Kohala Fire Station off Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
“We hope that it saves many lives, we hope it saves a lot of property and that it’s always put to good use to help support our Hawaii Island,” said Laura Mallery-Sayre, who along with husband, Frank Sayre, formed the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation in 1997 after the death of their son while hiking in Pololu Valley.
Custom built in Louisiana, the Big Dog donated and blessed on Saturday is the second of three water tankers donated by the same benefactor.
The first was a Bulldog tanker that’s been assigned to the Waimea Fire Station since arriving on island in 2019. The second Big Dog, which is being built in Idaho, is expected to arrive on island next month. That tanker will be assigned to the North Kohala station in Kapaau.
“That’s just who he is — just got a heart of gold and we’re going have to tell the universe thank you for his loving generosity because without his support we would not have this amazing truck to help our community,” Sayre said of the philanthropist.
West Hawaii Battalion Chief Bill Bergin, who helped design the vehicle with now-retried Fire Chief Darren Rosario, said it was “incredible” to be getting three of the wildland trucks. Having the ability to truck in more than 1,000 gallons of water to battle a fire — compared to 300 gallons — will greatly improve the department’s capability to douse fires.
“Being able to get large quantities of water off-road is really what’s needed,” he said.
Since starting the foundation, which benefits the Hawaii Fire Department, more than $7 million has been raised to fund equipment and training for first responders on the Big Island. That includes more than $814,000 in fiscal year 2020 alone.
“We are so blessed to have the Sayre Foundation on this island and the people that donated to make this happen. It’s some real philanthropist that really make things like this happen,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth.
Roth also took a moment to thank the men and women who work at the South Kohala Fire Station for saving his life on Jan. 9.
“This is a very special day for so many different reasons. For me it’s very special because four months ago, right over here, I was having a heart attack and this station actually saved my life and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for every one at this station. The job that they did, the professionalism that they showed was truly inspiring,” Roth said. “This is a gift to me to be able to come and thank you guys for saving my life. … If I didn’t make it here probably in the time that I did and these guys weren’t trained as well as they were, I probably would not have made it.”
The annual Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation awards dinner and fundraiser is tentatively slated for Sept. 4. Last year’s event, which marked 23 years, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information, updates or to donate, visit www.danielsayrefoundation.org.