A rookie Maui police officer is credited with saving lives when he entered a smoke-filled Kahului house early Monday, woke up residents and helped extinguish a fire.
Officer Gershom Slonim, 24, was driving through the neighborhood in his patrol car when he saw heavy smoke coming from a two-story home at 656 S. Papa Ave. at 2:26 a.m.
Slonim said he called the Fire Department and then went into the building carrying a small fire extinguisher.
He woke up two men who were sleeping in the garage and helped them out of the building.
Slonim learned from the two men that there were other people in the main structure and went to their rescue through an open front door.
Slonim said he used his fire extinguisher to douse a pot of oil that had caught fire on the stove.
At that point, Slonim said, the smoke was so thick that he had to go outside because he couldn’t breathe.
Two other officers — Darryl Honda and Randy Takayama — arrived and went into the house with Slonim to help.
The three got the remaining residents out of the building. Slonim personally helped three more people — two men and a woman — evacuate the structure.
“I was just doing my job. Nothing extraordinary, just my job,” said Slonim, who has been on patrol duty for just five months.
“I just did what I had to do with my partners. They also deserve the credit.”
The Maui Fire Department said a dozen people lived in the home. All escaped without injury with the help of Slonim, Honda and Takayama.
Firefighters arriving on scene saw light smoke and flames coming from the home, fire officials said. Fire crews had the small blaze under control at 2:50 a.m. and extinguished by 3:35 a.m. There were no injuries reported.
The fire spread from the stove to the kitchen and living room on the first floor, fire officials said. It did not reach the second floor of the structure. Damage was estimated at $7,000.
Slonim said he joined the force in July 2011 because he wanted to “do something to help my (Kahului) community, which was really nice when I moved here with my family in 2004.”
Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta said, “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.”
Both Takayama, 24, a police officer since June 2008, and Honda, 35, who started as a recruit in June 2011, are assigned to patrol the Wailuku area with Slonim.