Honolulu firefighter recruits connect with founding Aliʻi during visit to Royal Mausoleum
Unless you have a connection with the fire service you may not know that King Kamehameha III founded the Honolulu Fire Department in 1851. Every recruit class, since 2018, learns this and the department’s connection to its ancestry and heritage by visiting Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu.
Eleven firefighter recruits gathered at Mauna ‘Ala for protocol and a ceremony that recognizes HFD’s strong connection to the department’s ali’i founding.
HFD Captain Po‘okela Hanson is one of the driving forces behind the program, which is endorsed by fire department leadership to recognize and perpetuate the connection with the past. It is now fire department tradition.
“Having the fire department visit Mauna ‘Ala is truly to ground ourselves physically, spiritually and mentally and to honor and pay respect to our ali‘i. In particular, Prince Albert, King Kalākaua, and Kauikeaouli (King Kamehameha III). They all were part of our HFD ‘Ohana.”
Prince Albert was an honorary firefighter with Engine Co. Four. Kalākaua was also a member of Engine Co. Four and Kauikeaouli founded the department.
The recruit classes are immersed in Hawaiian protocol and heritage, with a visit to the chapel at Mauna ‘Ala, and the tombs and crypts of ali‘i. Inside the sacred space, Firefighter II Kaipo Lindsey Jr. shared moving and fascinating stories of the kings and queens, princes and princesses lying in rest at Mauna ‘Ala.
Then the recruits and guests participated in a blessing, where they placed their hands in a koa bowl of water and then imprinted them on the part of a fire engine that best represents their assigned job.
Several Honolulu City Council members, family members and other guests also participated in the ceremony, held July 20.
Curt Cottrell, Administrator of the DLNR Division of State Parks said, “Mauna ‘Ala is one of the most revered state monuments in our nation. It’s an honor and a little daunting for those of us at state parks to be able to steward this place and to host these kinds of events so people truly connect with their culture and heritage. I think it’s awesome that HFD wants their new recruits to be grounded in the history of their department.”
The department’s apparatus all have Hawaiian names and the HFD Museum, at its headquarters on South Street, also recognizes the history with several displays highlighting its connection with the past and with the Hawaiian royals who were so instrumental in the early days of HDF.
Capt. Hanson added, “We come to these recognitions as strangers, but leave here as family. I think that’s what strengthens our department, strengthens our community, and strengthens us as people serving this community. Everybody can relate to the fact that we all have ancestors, and we draw our wisdom, knowledge, and ability to make decisions from the people who came before us.”