Suspended After Reporting Safety Violations and Poor Training
HONOLULU FIRE DEPARTMENT CAPTAIN GEORGE KAOPUIKI had no recourse but to file a lawsuit against his employers Friday following a series of harrasing investigations and a suspension. Following a fire late last year in which an elderly woman was saved by firefighters yet died later at the hospital, Capt. Kaopuiki attended a staff meeting in December and told the five captains and a battalion chief that several costly errors were made by the companies on the scene that could have been prevented with proper training and guidlines.
Capt. Kaopuiki (KHON-TV image)
The mistakes include not hooking up to a fire hydrant to ensure an ample water supply, and not starting a rescue search sooner because a sufficient water supply had not been secured early on, Kaopuiki told five fire captains and an acting battalion chief during a December meeting.
Fire personnel did not call Emergency Medical Services for 19 minutes after Kaopuiki carried the woman out of the fire, alive and breathing, he said at the meeting. He blamed the department's lack of training for the errors.
"Acting Battalion Chief Mark Nakagawa cautioned everyone present, 'This is an internal meeting. This information stays in-house with lessons learned,'" the lawsuit said.
The suit alleges Kaopuiki was retaliated against when he was subjected to an investigation Jan. 16 for false allegations of mistreating a firefighter at the Kakaako station, which he was told was at the direction of (Fire Chief Kenneth) Silva. That firefighter told Kaopuiki he never made a complaint against him.
Kaopuiki alleges he was retaliated against by being subjected to investigations based on false allegations, being suspended and being transferred, which resulted in loss of pay.
Kaopuiki says that he reported the errors up through the chain of command and then the harrassing actions began. He is suing the City and County of Honolulu, the Honolulu Fire Department, and Fire Chief Kenneth Silva.
KHON-TV filed this video report Friday that includes a good interview with Capt. Kaopuiki:
He also said that he was reprimanded and warned for writing a 2008 memorandum to an assistant chief about a firefighter who created a safety hazard by taking an unreasonably long time to respond to emergency calls, being unable to drive the firetruck into a correct position to raise a ladder in an emergency situation and being unable to provide medical emergency care.
He has been a member of the HFD for 23 years.