San Francisco firefighters volunteering time to help Maui wildfire victims

Gloria Rodríguez Image
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
SF firefighters volunteering time to help Maui wildfire victims
A group of San Francisco firefighters are ready for their next mission - to help the people of Maui after the devastating wildfires.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A group of San Francisco firefighters are ready for their next mission - to help the people of Maui after the devastating wildfires.

One retired and nine active San Francisco firefighters and one first responder/paramedic from the Bay Area flew to Hawaii from Oakland International Airport Tuesday morning.

For Kaeo Nacua, it's personal.

"My grandparents were born and raised on Lahaina, my dad and that side of the family," said Nacua, of the San Francisco Fire Department. "So all of my Hawaiian side is from Maui."

Nacua was born on Maui and raised in Hawaii.

VIDEO: Dogs, cats rescued from overwhelmed Maui shelters up for adoption across Bay Area

Forty dogs and cats that were already in Maui shelters before the wildfires broke out, were individually crated and shipped to the Bay Area.

"I'm very sensitive to it," Nacua said, adding it'll be emotional being there. "Being part Hawaiian also, I'm sensitive to the cultural aspects of it. With the San Francisco Fire Department, I'm trained to be part of the critical incident stress team. So that skill set you can bring to the table too."

The team will distribute supplies to the community at Lahaina Gateway, one of the only structures in town left standing after the fire.

Asian Firefighters Association of San Francisco President Stan Lee spearheaded the trip. He said they represent the AAPI firefighters of San Francisco and many have very strong ties to Hawaii.

"We're going out there as volunteers to help with the community," Lee said. "But if the fire department there needs us to help, we are willing and able to help."

That's why they packed their fire gear.

VIDEO: Woman reunites with stranger who carried her on his back to evacuate Maui wildfires

Benny Reinicke helped the mom and daughter as they tried to escape Lahaina.

Eric Shingo Tanaka has family in Hawaii and grew up going to Maui.

"Now that we have our mission, we're excited," said Tanaka, a San Francisco firefighter. "We want to get out there and just do whatever we can to just show the people of Hawaii, that you are family. You are our ohana too. We are here for you. We want to support you as much as we can."

The firefighters will be there a week and are volunteering their time.

Osaki Creative Group, which has locations in Honolulu and Berkeley, helped organize the trip and secured flights and lodging for the group.

"I think what Stan and the firefighters are doing from San Francisco is more than we could ever imagine," said Kurt Osaki, owner of Osaki Creative Group.

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