HONOLULU (KHON2) — There was a fire raging Upcountry, a red flag warning in effect and winds so intense two firefighters with 33 years of experience between them had never seen before.
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“We knew we were in for a long day. We just didn’t know what was in store for us,” said FF 3 tanker driver, Cody Cordeiro.
“We’re pretty much overrun by fire over here. We have multiple structures on fire,” MFD is heard on radio recordings from that day.
“I’ve never experienced wind like that ever on the island,” Cordeiro said.
“This was the windiest day I have ever seen in my life anywhere,” said Captain Engine 3, Peter Gand.
“Lahainaluna Road, we have multiple structures on fire here,” firefighters said on radio traffic with sirens wailing in the background.
“We would look down and three or four houses down, you notice there’s a roof on fire over there. Propane tanks blowing off at one point, one was venting. It sounded like a jet engine going off,” said Gand. “My crew was covered in smoke. We were just constantly getting bombarded by the winds. We’d get our lines off the truck and the gust of the winds were so strong you could barely stand up. It felt like it was going to blow you over. You couldn’t see, you had embers and ash blowing in your face.”
“Fifteen years in this department, I’ve never seen a structure fire spread like a wildfire would. It just ran on us,” said Cordeiro.
“All units, all units, we have to get out of the center of this fire,” is overheard on a radio call.
“Once we knew we had run out of water and our ability to fight the fire was limited, we shifted our objectives to trying to evacuate people. We were driving through neighborhoods.”
“It’s as useless as I ever felt and we’re trying the best we can but nothing was working in our favor. Basically, all the cards were stacked up against us,” said Cordeiro.
When the smoke cleared Wednesday morning, they didn’t have time to process what they were seeing.
“Sometimes you constantly think back, what if this was different. What i that was different? What could’ve changed. What if we had more resources. But honestly, I think we could’ve had 100 fire trucks down there and it wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Gand.
“We feel like this is the first time we felt like we couldn’t do our job. And even though we gave it everything we had it wasn’t enough. And we weren’t fast enough or, like Cap said, what if we did this, maybe if I did this. We’re kind of coming back as a group, a family, backing each other up and letting one another know like no, we did everything we possibly could. We ran out of water. We were where we were supposed to be at that particular moment. We just didn’t have a chance. It was an unfair advantage,” Cordeiro said.
“The crew with us knew their houses were probably burning. Their loved ones’ whereabouts were unknown. Personally, friends of mine that lived in Lahaina that I was concerned about had, no way of knowing where, what their location was. We didn’t really have time to even think about it. We just kept working and doing our job.”
Captain Gand told KHON2 they drove past one of the firefighter’s home, saw their home was destroyed and dogs were inside but they drove to the next structure to save what they could.
They said a typical single home fire, fully engulfed requires four engines and two support companies.
That is all MFD had to try to save an entire town.