KELSO, Wash. -- A pair of firefighters from Cowlitz County are back home after spending about a week on Hawaii’s Big Island.
“Relieved to be home for sure,” said Battalion Chief Joe Tone of Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue.
Tone saw plenty while assisting the Hawaiians. If he was not mapping the lava-devastated neighborhoods from the air, Tone was on the ground rescuing residents trapped by Kilauea’s fury.
“We had to go get a guy who was overcome with sulfur dioxide and was trapped behind where a lava flow started and it started running across the road,” he said.
According to Tone, the lava he saw shooting out of the ground sometimes went as high as 25 feet.
“We were wearing gas masks cause the parts per million were too high," he said.
If anyone can relate with Tone it is his own colleague, Chief Dave LaFave, who was also on the trip to the Big Island.
“I’d use the term anxious,” said LaFave. “Just because of the nature of the problem.”
LaFave helped enforce and maintain evacuation zones. He also helped monitor air quality around Kilauea.
“Nature’s power is incredible,” he said. “I’m certainly not inclined to underestimate what it can possibly do.”
Tone is also in that camp. He may be back home in Washington, but his mind is in Hawaii.
“I’m curious having been involved in it,” said Tone. “I’m curious as to what things look like right now down there.”
Both Tone and LaFave have been asked to return to Hawaii, but they cannot commit to a second trip at this point. There is too much going on in Cowlitz County.