Lahaina battalion chief retires after 25 years of service
LAHAINA – Surrounded by friends, family and fellow firefighters, Battalion Chief Amos Lono-Kailua Hewett retired with dignity as the Last Alarm for his 25 years of service sounded across the island on Saturday evening, Feb. 23, at Maui Fire Station 3, Lahaina.
Hewett described what he called “the fading tradition.”
“There are 14 stations in the County of Maui. Each fire station has its own tone, and each fire station will give a farewell message. Then I will give a farewell message, and the Last Alarm is technically over.
“I was not going to have the Last Alarm, but I needed closure. I’ve had a wonderful career working with wonderful people; it’s time to close that book and move on to the next chapter,” he continued.
“More importantly,” the 47-year-old stressed, “my family needs closure. My wife, Mitzie, and my three children have struggled with 25 years of the firefighting life. I really wanted to thank them for putting up with me and supporting me through the hardest of time up until this day.”
At 22 in 1994, Hewett joined the department.
The youngest of ten, he was raised in Central Maui, went to Kahului Elementary and graduated from Maui High.
“I went to the University of Hawaii for three-and-a-half years. I did not get my degree. I came home to take care of my mom and go into the fire department.”
“Later,” he continued, “I went back to school and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration. I am now two courses away from my Master’s Degree in Public Administration.”
His goals are inspiring.
“I don’t see myself going into politics, but I really do enjoy administration and more specifically fire administration. I hope to teach fire administration at the university, probably not on Maui,” he said.
“In the State of Hawaii, we just don’t have a very good fire education system for firefighters. Attempting to create something like that for the state would be awesome. Whether that opportunity presents itself or not remains to be seen,” he advised.
Hewett has great honor for his Hawaiian side.
His birth name was Amos Keawekane. He was legally adopted at the age of 28 by revered Kumu Hula Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett
“I went to dance at the Royal Lahaina Luau where I met my wife. That was in the early 1990s,” he explained.
“I became a student of Frank Hewett. He taught me how to speak Hawaiian. He taught me how to dance hula. He taught me about many, many traditions of our culture. We became very close.”
He graduated as a kumu hula in 2008.
“I was planning to teach hula after I graduated, but I made a conscious decision to give more to the firefighting side. That’s what I did. For the past 11 years, I’ve been focusing on the fire department,” he said.
“I am looking forward to going back to focusing a lot of energy on my Hawaiian side. My hula side. My language side. I imagine I will be dancing a lot more.”
Throughout his career, Amos has been a busy man – a complete understatement.
While raising a young family, at one point he worked four jobs “to make ends meet,” including the fire department, two security gigs and dancing at the Royal Lahaina. He was 25 when he purchased his first home.
His service to our community was determined, full to overflowing, from one firehouse to the next, in a variety of positions. It’s a mouthful.
“I got into the fire department March 1, 1994. My first assignment was in Kihei. Then I moved out to Lahaina, then went to Wailuku to work, then I got promoted out to Paia, then moved all the way back to Lahaina as a driver – driving the fire apparatus. Then I went to work in Kahului on the tanker, then I got promoted to captain, went back out to Lahaina as a ladder captain, then I was asked by the chief to take over the training. So I went into the training for two-and-a-half years. Then I got promoted to battalion chief in April of 2013. I have been the battalion chief for a little over five-and-a-half years.
“In the County of Maui,” he explained, “there are two battalions – basically two geographical areas that are assigned basically one battalion chief each; so my battalion geographical area included Wailuku, Lahaina, Napili, Lanai and Molokai.
He was the battalion chief of Battalion Two, Hewett advised, “responsible for all of the fire cases in that geographical area, all of the firefighters in that geographical area, all of the apparatus in that geographic area, all of the calls in that geographical area, all of the emergencies in that geographical area – every emergency, from a medical call to a flood, to a swift water event, to a brush fire, to an ocean rescue to a structure fire.”
His career was more than just a job.
“What I like about the fire department was the opportunity to serve. Why I love administration? It gives me the opportunity to serve more people,” he said.
Hewett has established priorities.
“It is more important to me to represent my family than it is to represent my Hawaiian side; however, I am Hawaiian and my family is Hawaiian; and, therefore, Hawaiian things represent them. I am from a genealogical line of Alii and Kahuna. They were experts at what they did and they cared for the people. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do as they did in the native language with a traditional Hawaiian perspective,” he explained.
“There are a lot of wonderful traditions of the Hawaiian people that can heal the world, like the traditions of Aloha and Ho’oponopono. I am grateful to be able to share and/or contribute to the progress of humanity with a perspective of God that is specifically Hawaiian.”