Military and Civilian Forces Unify to Fight Honolulu Fires
Journalist Second Class U. S. Navy
U. S. Navy photo
U. S. Navy photo
HAWAII isn’t just the first state to be composed of a group of islands. It is also the first place in the United States where Army, Navy, Air Force and civil authorities agree to fight fires together and save taxpayers an estimated $600,000 a year. According to military officials, Honolulu is the “only place in the world” where the three military services have united as a single party to sign a fire fighting agreement with a city and county. Tri-service commanders and the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu signed the unique mutual aid fire fighting pact last June. Honolulu Fire Chief William K. Blaisdell and Larry Duhrkoop, Armed Forces fire protection coordinator, said the program will save the city and federal governments $600,0(X) in the first year. This is because joint operations will make it unnecessary to build the number of new fire stations that would be required otherwise.
The pact is the realization of a dream for Duhrkoop, who was formerly assistant to the Portland, Ore., fire chief. As a Naval Reserve officer on active duty during World War II, he was made fire marshal of the old Pearl Harbor Naval Yard and stayed on as a civil service employee following the war. His first effort was the consolidation of all the Navy fire fighting units on Oahu which resulted in an estimated $175,000 annual saving. Duhrkoop then worked toward massing all the military fire fighters which is credited with saving an additional $237,000 a year. He has since been installed as the first Armed Forces fire protection coordinator and now heads all military fire fighting units.
Last August, Duhrkroop received the highest award a civilian employee can receive from the Navy from Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations. The citation stated, “The Navy Superior Civilian Service Award, which is the highest honorary award the Chief of Naval Operations can bestow upon a civilian employee of the Navy, is presented to Mr. Duhrkoop for his effective leadership as Fourteenth Naval District Fire Marshal, which is characterized by enthusiasm, initiative and creativeness, and force of personality, and which has achieved and sustained an organization noted for its superior group accomplishment, efficiency and high morale, and for the significant contribution which he has made by saving the U. S. Armed Forces, Pacific, and the City and County of Honolulu significant sums of money while simultaneously improving the quality of fire protection. His contribution to the other Armed Services and the civilian community has been such as to bring credit on the Navy and is deserving of special recognition.”
Late in 1949, Duhrkoop drew up a preliminary mutual assistance pact which was agreed to by the military and civilian authorities. The recent permanent agreement, also written by Duhrkoop, was signed by Honolulu Mayor Neal S. Blaisdell (brother of the fire chief); Rear Admiral E. A. Solomons, 14th Naval commander; Major General J. E. Theimer, 25th Infantry Division commander and Brigadier General P. T. Preuss, Pacific Air Force Base commander.
The agreement provides: (1) Sending men and equipment to each other’s alarms when requested; (2) maintenance of a radio and a telephone fire alarm network; (3) establishment of a tri-service and city training board to standardize training of civilian and military fire fighters. In addition, city firemen will be given free training at military fire fighting schools and the City of Honolulu will provide first-alarm service at military installations where there is no fire fighting equipment. In turn, the military will do the same where its equipment is nearest the scene of a fire in civilian areas.
The key provision in the new pact permits a fire fighting unit from any military base or any city fire station to assist at any incident in either an active or standby status. A blaze earlier in the year at the Pearl Harbor Officers’ Club was a good example of the teamwork advocated by the old agreement, although the 1950 pact wasn’t binding. Fire companies from adjoining Hickam Air Force Base and Honolulu units converged upon the blaze quickly to aid Navy fire fighters. As the assisting companies left their areas, other military and civilian units sent some of their equipment and men to man the empty stations.