The proposed merger of Honolulu’s Fire and Emergency Services Departments, in the spotlight in recent weeks, became a topic of discussion in Wednesday night’s Civil Beat-KITV Honolulu mayoral debate.

Former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained his support for the merger.

“We have 43 fire stations and 25 EMS stations,” said Caldwell in a rebuttal to former Gov. Ben Cayetano. “We have more ambulances than that. And we can put them into fire stations close to where we live, so you can get them to people who are in need of care, healthcare, and taken to hospitals. This is critical for me. And it’s going to save money…”

Are Caldwell’s numbers correct?

The statement came in response to a question from KITV’s Catherine Cruz, who originally asked Cayetano whether the departments should merge. The number of EMS stations is important because Caldwell argues that he can improve the city’s life-saving capabilities by installing an ambulance in every fire station.

Honolulu as of Monday actually has 20 ambulance units or EMS stations, according to an EMS spokesperson. Those ambulance units, plus two other “rapid response” units, fall under two districts. (The city does indeed have 43 fire stations.)

But Caldwell wasn’t the only one whose figures were mistaken. Cayetano said the city has 41 fire stations and 19 ambulance units.

While the former governor was more or less correct about the number of EMS stations — even the department’s website has yet to be updated from 19 — his answer for the number of fire stations in Honolulu was off by two.

The merger between the city’s Fire and EMS departments is in dispute in part because of the jobs at stake.

The issue has come front and center in recent weeks, in part because of allegations that Caldwell has ulterior reasons for advocating the merger. Caldwell has been endorsed by the Hawaii Firefighters Association, whose membership base could increase in the case of a merger, though he points out that he was also endorsed by the union that includes paramedics.

Moreover, details of the merger are currently being investigated by the Honolulu Ethics Commission. The commission is looking into how the Fire Department handed out a consulting contract to evaluate the merits of a merger.

BOTTOM LINE: Caldwell said Honolulu has 25 EMS stations. The number is actually 20. But he was correct in saying the city has 43 fire stations. We find his statement to be Mostly True.

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