WAILUKU - Three police officers who entered burning homes in Lahaina and Kahului to rescue residents were honored with Maui Police Department medals of valor Friday.
"You just do what you got to do," said officer Jun Hattori, a six-year veteran who received a Silver Medal of Valor for his actions while responding to a July 4, 2011, fire on Kelawea Street in Lahaina. "I don't think we do it to expect anything. We try to help people."
Fellow officer Erik Losvar, who has been a police officer for more than seven years, also received a Silver Medal of Valor.
Wailuku patrol officer Gershom Slonim (left) displays his Bronze Medal of Valor, while officers Erik Losvar and Jun Hattori hold their Silver Medals of Valor. They were among nine officers recognized Friday for their work in helping residents out of burning homes in Lahaina and Kahului.
The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo
The two were among the first Lahaina patrol officers to arrive on scene after the 6:20 p.m. call, finding some of the 20 residents outside the burning single-story home.
After one resident reported that others were still inside the back portion of the house, Hattori entered the home and located a woman who had been bathing her 6-month-old daughter. "I think they were just scared," he said.
Hattori carried the infant and told the mother to follow as he led the way out of the house.
Losvar also escorted a resident out of the house. He hadn't found anyone inside when he entered the north side of the house, getting out as the room was engulfed in flames. Seeing Hattori leaving the back room with the baby and her mother, Losvar entered the room to search for other occupants, leaving as the back room caught fire.
"The roof started to come down as we were getting out," Losvar said. "A propane tank started to explode on the north side, right where we had to get past to get out."
No one was injured in the fire, which broke out after someone reported seeing sparks and smoke from an electrical box in front of the house. Damage was estimated at $375,000.
Sgt. Kimberly Masse along with officers Robert Corpuz, Clement Antonio and Matthew Brown were awarded certificates of merit for helping evacuate neighboring residences.
In another fire Aug. 27 in Kahului, officer Gershom Slonim helped residents escape from a home on South Papa Avenue after a pot on the stove caught fire. He received a Bronze Medal of Valor.
Slonim, a rookie officer at the time, was driving along the street at 2:24 a.m. when he saw smoke from an open door of the two-story home. He grabbed his fire extinguisher from his car and awakened two males asleep in the garage before going inside to douse the fire.
Overwhelmed by the smoke, Slonim went outside briefly.
He and fellow patrol officers Randy Takayama and Darryl Honda went back inside to evacuate three other residents from the house. Damage was estimated at $7,000 to the kitchen and living room on the first floor.
"If anything, I just want to thank God, my family, my beat partners," Slonim said after receiving the medal.
Takayama and Honda received certificates of merit.
Police Chief Gary Yabuta presented the medals and certificates to the nine officers during a ceremony Friday afternoon at Hale Maka'i police headquarters. He said the officers "put your lives on the line" to save others.
"You represent our department extremely, extremely well," Yabuta told the officers.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.