The Island of Maui’s Engine 1 and 6 crews were among those fighting the wildfire in Lahaina on Aug. 8 when both were trapped by the fast-moving fire. With the streets blocked by cars, visibility almost zero, and heat roasting their equipment, it appeared all hope was lost.
They all survived thanks to the actions of one Hawaiian Islands Local 1463 member. The incredible story was told on 60 Minutes Nov. 19.
Local 1463 member Tanner Mosher, 26, was on Engine 6, and remembers, “We could see metal melting in front out our eyes.” But Mosher wasn’t about to give up, even as crew members around him were texting their families they might not make it out.
“I just remember being like, ‘I can’t give up yet. I gotta do something,” he told 60 Minutes. “And so, I remember looking out the window, and all of the sudden I see Engine 1 Skeeter.”
The Skeeter is a small fire truck on the frame of a four-wheel drive vehicle, popular in fighting wildland fires. Mosher got inside and drove the truck over the barricade of cars and rock walls. He kept going – through the smoke and flames – until he saw a police SUV.
With permission from the police officer, Mosher ditched the damaged Skeeter and took the SUV to rescue seven trapped fire fighters, including a captain who had passed out from smoke inhalation. Engine 1 had significantly deteriorated due to the heat and eventually became a pile of ashes.
Captain Jay Fujita, also a Local 1463 member, told 60 Minutes, “[Mosher] saved all of our lives. You can’t teach that kind of heroism.”
Fire fighters in Maui have been credited with saving 200 lives but there’s great concern on the island that more fires are coming.
For years, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) officials have warned that conditions were ripe for wildfires in the state.
Hawaii Professional Fire Fighters Association President Bobby Lee explained in another segment on 60 Minutes that fire fighters were in trouble from the start of the wildfires due to a lack of resources. In fact, Hawaii has not added a new fire company since 2003.
“So, you look at the increase of people that have come to this island,” Lee said. “You have the (sugar) plantations that shut down, and so a lot more abandoned land, wildfire land. And our firefighting force has been the same for the last 20 years.”
With this tragedy and the potential for more, the Hawaii DLNR is hopeful the state will finally get the increased resources it needs for adequate wildfire protection.