HONOLULU (KHON2) — Firefighting is a dangerous job. National statistics show driving to an emergency call is actually one of the most dangerous parts of the job.

Fire crews are there whenever we need them, putting their lives on the line every day fighting fires.

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However, firefighting isn’t the leading cause of death for these firefighters. It’s not even the second.

According to the United States Fire Administration, the second leading cause of death for firefighters in America — after cancer — is motor vehicle accidents, with 20% to 25% of firefighters dying in the line of duty every year.

Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Aina Watson said it can be very dangerous.

“Most fire departments across the nation are volunteer fire departments, and they may or may not have a dedicated driver program to develop their operators,” Watson explained.

But Watson said HFD does. They have extensive driver training, and special license certification is required for employment.

“Recruits go through 80 hours of driver training and at least 16 hours behind-the-wheel to make sure they know how to operate the vehicle safely,” said Watson.

Maika Mataele, who’s a firefighter recruit in his second month of training, said operating these apparatuses can be a little overwhelming sometimes.

“But they do a good job,” he said, “not only giving us the skills and knowledge to do that, but also the confidence.”

They learn about every inch of the vehicle, including what’s under the cab. Mataele said they’re taught the basic mechanics of the vehicle and how to check to make sure it’s working properly.

So how often do they do these checks?

“Every day,” Mataele said. “Every time it transitions from one driver to a different driver, that driver is supposed to do a pre-check himself.”

All that training makes a difference.

Out of the 55,000 to 60,000 calls HFD responds to annually, Watson said they only had one accident in 2021, and they haven’t had any this year.

Accidents also delay response times, which means the person who called 911 has to wait.

“We could have someone who just had a heart attack,” Watson explained. “If we get out of that golden hour to save that life, it certainly is a life and death situation.”

He said they need the public’s help to get to calls quickly and safely, and lights and sirens are required to warn drivers ahead they’re coming.

“When we’re responding, it would be really helpful, if you’re not sure what to do, kind of look at what the driver in front of you is doing,” said Watson. “If they’re pulling to the right, then try to pull to the right.”

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And if your car is soundproof, you should check your rear and side mirrors every five to 10 seconds in case an emergency vehicle is approaching.