Sheldon ‘Kalani’ Hao named new Honolulu fire chief

Sheldon “Kalani” Hao, Acting Deputy Fire Chief of the Honolulu Fire Department, has been selected to become the department’s new fire chief.

On Tuesday, in a 6-0 vote, the seven-member Honolulu Fire Commission voted in Hao, commission chair Charlotte Nekota confirmed. Commissioner David Matlin, who joined in October, abstained because he was not part of the interview process, but he supported the vote, Nekota said.

Hao and acting fire chief Lionel Camara Jr. were the two finalists in a multi-month selection process for HFD’s new fire chief. At around noon on Tuesday, Camara sent a department-wide email announcing his retirement on December 30 as well as Hao’s transition to the post of fire chief on January 1.

“Chief Camara chose Chief Hao to be his deputy, and they worked very well together,” Nekota said. “He’s been a great mentor to him.

Former fire chief Manuel Neves retired from HFD in February, starting the process to select a new chief.

Robert “Bobby” Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, said Hao was “full of integrity and character” and the right choice for the fire chief.

“His heart is in the right place, he’s trying to do the right thing,” Lee said. “He’s trying to protect the firefighters, tries to protect the public.”

Lee, who considers Camara a friend, said Camara would be a continuation of the Neves administration, with which the HFFA has struggled over the years regarding decisions about firefighters and public safety.

One of the most notable problems arose when the management of HFD wanted to add a rescue company, specializing in rescue operations, to the department.

The two existing rescue companies objected, Lee said, because the lack of trained personnel would “dilute” the companies and pose a safety hazard.

The problem led to the passage of a Honolulu City Council Bill last year was aimed at ensuring adequate training for the personnel of the HFD rescue company.