Remembering Hawaii’s first fire department

Remembering Hawaii

The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) responded to a building fire at Apex Mopeds on 1930 S Beritania Street around 1 p.m. on July 3.

On November 6th, 1850, the first fire department in Hawaii was established when two volunteer fire brigades were organized: the Honolulu Company No. 1 and Mechanic Engine Company No. 2. The brigades were founded under William Cooper Parke, who had been commissioned as Marshal of the Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kamehameha III five months prior. Alexander Cartwright was the first fire chief.

On December 27th of that year, Kamehameha III — who had previously volunteered in the fire brigade while serving as Hawaii’s King — issued an ordinance to establish the Honolulu Fire Department.

The first fire fought by the volunteer brigades happened on the corner of Maunakea and N. King street. Using a new but poorly-designed fire engine for the first time, the crew made the gross, goofy error of accidentally connecting the suction pipe down a cesspool instead of a water well.

The fire department slowly moved away from using volunteers and became professionalized. By the 1880s, firefighters were paid based on their rank and the number of fires they helped to put out. On March 1st, 1893, a law was passed to create a regularly-paid fire department.

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