VIDEO: 12 Escape Burning Home, Maui Officer Recounts Response

August 27, 2012, 12:09 PM HST · Updated August 27, 1:44 PM
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Officer Gershom Slonim. Courtesy photo.

By Wendy Osher

“This is what I signed up for,” said Maui Police Officer Gershom Slonim, who alerted a family to a home fire he spotted while on patrol early this morning.

A total of 12 people, who were asleep at the time, escaped unharmed from the home at 656 South Papa Avenue after Slonim noticed heavy smoke coming from the porch area of the home at around 2:24 a.m.

“I looked to my left and saw smoke billowing out of a residence through the main entry door that was open,” said Slonim, who was passing by the home in his patrol vehicle.

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Slonim said he exited his vehicle and came upon the garage area where he saw two male individuals sleeping. When awoken, the two indicated that there were other people in the home.

“I looked inside the house and I could see about three-foot flames coming out of the stove area,” said Slonim, who made entry into the house and used a fire extinguisher that he had grabbed from his patrol vehicle to put out the flames.

“I attempted to wake up the other occupants of the house, and I had trouble breathing so I had to go back outside,” said Slonim.

Slonim then attempted to make entry again, this time with two other officers–Randy Takayama and Darryl Honda–who had arrived on scene.  During entry, Slonim said, they came upon three occupants in the living room who they escorted out.

Stove fire at S. Papa Avenue home in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.+

When making entry for a third time, Slonim said the fire had re-ignited and he used the remainder of his extinguisher to attempt to put out the flames.

Unsuccessful in his attempt, and unable to breathe again, Slonim exited the home, and was informed by his partners that everyone was now safely out of the home.

There were a total of 12 people within the property at the time of the fire–five in the front house, and the rest occupying the back side of the residence.

Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga stated, “Through investigation it was found that a pot was left on the stove; this pot caused a small fire to the kitchen and living room located on the first floor. An estimate of $7,000 of damages were reported to the room and contents. There was no fire extension to the second floor.”

After just five months on the force, Slonim said, “this is why I joined the department in the first place–to serve my community and give back. My main concern was just making sure everybody got out safely.”

Stove fire at S. Papa Avenue home in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.+

Slonim graduated with the MPD’s 75th Recruit Class in March with top honors, earning both the Department’s Scholastic Achievement Award and Neil T. Endo Firearms Award.

Chief Gary Yabuta commented this morning saying, “We are very thankful for the bravery of Maui Police Department Officers Gershom Slonim, Darryl Honda, and Randy Takayama, whose actions saved many lives this morning. Our concern now is that these very officers and victims fully recover from this particular fire.”

Lt. Wayne Ibarra, the spokesperson for the department reiterated the chief’s message saying, “We are grateful for the fine officers that we have.”

Stove fire at S. Papa Avenue home in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Stove fire at S. Papa Avenue home in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.

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