Honolulu Fire Department sees increase in hiking, ocean rescues

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) held a news conference on Wednesday, June 23, to discuss recently collected data on land and ocean incidents the Department has responded to since the start of 2021.

The Honolulu Fire Department says hey have seen an increase in hiking rescue calls in the past few months.

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“There’s a lot of people out there for sure. Any trail that we have on the island can be a difficult one based off of that person’s fitness level experience,” said HFD Captain Blake Takahashi.

According to HFD, of the nearly 350 incidents in 2021, 170 were high-angle rescues like from a trail. A total of 49 rescues involved swimming, 42% of all rescues involved visitors and 39% were locals. Compared to 2019, there were fewer rescues with about 260.

“I think there is a lot of people that have been coming to visit. Everybody is out of quarantine. We are kind of moving in that direction. Seems like tourism has picked up quite a bit,” said Captain Takahashi.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) told KHON2 it responds with HFD on hiker rescue calls. Officials say recently many of the calls are for injuries that are not life-threatening.

“Somebody may have a sprained ankle and they can’t get themselves out of the situation they’re in because of their injury, but it’s not life-threatening and it takes rescuers and the ambulances out of service when it could’ve been needed for something more serious like a heart attack,” said Honolulu EMS Chief Chris Sloman.

Chief Sloman says they want people to have fun but also be prepared.

“Do some research where you’re going. Be prepared for the weather, the environment, for the terrain you’re going to be in. Know your limitations,” said Chief Sloman.

HFD has these tips to share:
· Bring a cell phone with a full battery
· Bring water and stay hydrated
· Keep track of time to avoid hiking at night
· Do not rely on social media for excursion planning

Ocean Safety says they are seeing plenty of visitors who look for adventure.

“What that means is they may be venturing into a spot where we haven’t had a chance to meet them first and tell them you might need fins for this area,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief John Titchen. “We’re seeing people instead of going to get a surf lesson from somebody on the beach, a stand on the beach in Waikiki, they’re buying a board at Costco,” said Chief Titchen.

Chief Titchen says some beaches — such as Electric Beach on the Leeward coast — are seeing overwhelming numbers but there is no lifeguard tower.

“Ocean Safety in the next couple of weeks plans to go to an extended hours program where we’re going to put mobile units out at earlier and later hours,” he explains to be in compliance with a new ordinance. “Hopefully residents and visitors alike will start to see more and more of an Ocean Safety presence.”

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