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In brief | Big Island & State | 3-23-14

March 23, 2014 - 7:50am

Electrical wires spark Papaaloa blaze

An electrical short in a light switch caused a blaze in the laundry room of a Papaaloa home Saturday morning, but the owner’s son kept the fire from spreading.

Reuben Prensky, son of Joy Gardner, woke just before 5 a.m. to crackling noises in the outside laundry room of the Nanu Street home. He found the laundry sink in full blaze with flames spreading to the wall, according to a Hawaii County Fire Department press release. Prensky grabbed a garden hose and doused the fire before firefighters arrived minutes later. Damage to the laundry area and home was estimated at $10,000. The Fire Department determined the flames had been caused by faulty wiring in the laundry area.

Officer, Firefighter of The Year honored

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaii recognized Sgt. James Correa as “Officer of the Year” and Capt. Darwin Okinaka as “Firefighter of the Year” during a Thursday ceremony at the Hilo Yacht Club.

Correa, who joined the Hawaii County Police Department in March 1998, is assigned to the South Hilo District, where he heads the Special Enforcement Unit. Okinaka joined the Hawaii County Fire Department in May 2000 and is in charge of the Training Bureau.

Each honoree received a plaque from the Aloha Exchange Club, certificates of commendation from the Governor’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, the State Legislature and the Hawaii County Council.

Correa was honored for his leadership role in capturing two escaped prisoners.

On Dec. 5, 2012, two inmates escaped from Hawaii Community Correctional Center, according to a police press release about the awards. In the aftermath of the escape, the Police Department formed teams on each side of the island, to lead a man hunt for the fugitives.

Correa was assigned to lead the Area I Task Force in East Hawaii, while Sgt. Bradley Freitas was in charge of the Area II Task Force in West Hawaii. The teams tracked down leads and arrested one prisoner in Ka‘u two days after the escape. The second was captured a week later in Puna.

Fire Capt. Okinaka was honored for his leadership, attitude and community service. During the past year, he was the core facilitator for 29 firefighter recruits. Okinaka continues to take the lead in assisting with voluntary community service events with the recruits, such as the painting of the NAS pool parking lot, painting of the exhibit structures at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, providing first aid service at booths at the Muscular Dystrophy walk and American Cancer Society Relay for Life, as well as being an integral part of the planning and operations team for the Fire Department’s annual EMS Week Festivities and Fire Prevention Week events.

In accepting his award, Okinaka said he remembers seeing a “Firefighter of the Year” award for his father when he was a boy. “I was proud of him,” he said, adding that he never thought he would earn the same distinction.

By local sources