Wednesday, January 12, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Chad Ganoot climbs a 70-foot ladder at the Fire
Department training site. Next up for prospective
firefighters is the timed mile run.

Department candidates
all fired up

A glimpse at HFD's past

By Jaymes K. Song


Jacob Pekelo was only 75 yards from finishing a mile run. His chance of becoming a Honolulu firefighter would die again if he didn't cross the line in seconds.

His heart was thumping louder and faster; sweat poured from his body in the hot sun; a female timer urged him to hurry.

Eight minutes flat. He did it -- just barely -- taking a step toward becoming a firefighter.

"I couldn't feel 'em," Pekelo said about his legs. "I just prayed to God. I had a lot riding on it."

Pekelo, 28, was one of 100 candidates who made it to the physical entry exam yesterday at the training center near the airport. They are the remaining candidates of the 5,000 who signed up to become firefighters.

"The competition is fierce," said Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi.

If Pekelo makes the final cut of 70, he will be admitted to the Honolulu Fire Department's 82nd recruit class, one of the largest classes ever.

Seventy recruits were needed, opposed to the normal 35 because of last year's 38 retirements and addition of two new fire stations -- Mililani Mauka and Waikele -- said Fire Department spokesman Richard Soo.

Pekelo, a Pearl City resident, tried in the last go-around in October 1998 but was rejected after running the mile in 8:02, just two seconds over the qualifying time.

"It was the hardest run in my life," he said while catching his breath and pouring a bottle of water over his dripping, shaven head. "I'm very happy."

He trained by running and going to the gym. But finding time to train was difficult because of a busy work schedule and his three young children -- ages 5, 3 and 1.

"I wanted something that made a difference," said Pekelo, who works in the parts division of a company that services automated teller machines.

Pekelo said he admires firefighters because they try to "save lives" and "lessen tragedy" every time they are called.

Fellow candidate Stan Kimura had an easier time with the run. But he got a little nervous with the 70-foot ladder climb. Kimura, 28, said the ladder started getting a little shaky at the top.

The Aiea resident said he wanted to become a firefighter because he was "tired of sitting behind a desk" and he wanted "to go out and do good."

The 82nd recruit class will start training by April, and trainees will become firefighters in four months.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi holds the silver horn that
will be on display at the department's museum.
It was used in the 1800s to shout out orders.

Small museum
to give glimpse
of HFD’s past

Star-Bulletin staff


A Honolulu Fire Department mini-museum will be open at the end of the month, Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi announced yesterday.

The museum at the training center near Honolulu Airport features four display cases filled with 105-year-old fire extinguishers, hose nozzles, leather firefighting helmets and dozens of photographs.

Dennis Lewis, a fire captain and Fire Department historian, said he's been collecting the memorabilia for more than 25 years.

The museum also features the silver horn, which was used in the late 1800s by the fire chief to shout out orders. The horn has since been made a part of the fire department's emblem.

"I don't know how you can look at this and not take pride in the department," Leonardi said.

Bullet What: The Honolulu Fire Department museum.
Bullet Where: At the HFD training center near the airport at 890 Valkenburgh St.
Bullet When: Open to the public once a month starting Jan. 29, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nearly 150 years of fighting fires

The Honolulu Fire Department will turn 150 next year.

King Kamehameha III and Keoni Ana signed a law Dec. 27, 1850, establishing a department.

The fire department was official on Jan. 11, 1851. A commemorative patch will be worn by all firefighters in honor of the 150 years.

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