Troy Carriaga, left, received a certificate of commendation yesterday from the Honolulu Fire Department for his role in putting out a fire. His daughter Chaylinn, wife, Michelle, and son Rayson were on hand as he was honored.

Fire Department
honors heroes

Six firefighters and 22 community
members get commendations

Troy Carriaga didn't think twice.

Within seconds of his son telling him that the apartment building next door was on fire, Carriaga was out the door and climbing his way up the outside of the Pearl City building to enter an empty third-floor apartment where a Christmas tree had caught fire.

Meanwhile, Petty Officer Christopher Hower was on his way home from a friend's house when he saw a fire burning in the apartment building on the evening of Dec. 18. He stopped his car in the middle of the road, and along with Carriaga, started climbing into the building.

With the help of a few others who tossed fire extinguishers and a water hose up to the third-floor lanai, the two men had the fire contained and extinguished before the firefighters arrived. Carriaga cut his bare feet on shattered glass while entering the apartment, and Hower was treated for smoke inhalation, but no one else was injured.

The two men were among 22 community members and six firefighters who were commended yesterday in a ceremony at the Honolulu Fire Department's training center. The ceremony, which is held about every four months, recognizes individuals who put themselves at risk to save others.

"We can't do anything until we actually get to the scene," said Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi. "That short period of time -- from the time the alarm is dispatched to the time we get to the scene -- is the precious moment when a life can be saved. It's an honor for us to recognize the people who have taken that extra step, who have put themselves in harm's way to save someone else."

The honorees are recommended by fire captains who are at the scene when community members assist in an emergency. The captains submit a written recommendation to their superiors, who then send the report to a committee whose members make the final selections.

Leonardi said firefighters are not typically recognized with a ceremony for doing activities that are normally included in their job descriptions, but the six who received commendations yesterday were honored for their heroism while off-duty.

They included firefighter Neil Carmody, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a woman who collapsed in Costco, where he works part-time, and Travis Wilson, who stopped on his way to work to help accident victims.

But firefighters are trained to help people, Leonardi said. It's the ones who voluntarily walk into danger that are the real heroes.

"I don't know what made me do it," said Carriaga, whose wife, Michelle, said he's known for his good Samaritan-like ways. "I guess I help people because I hope that someone would do the same thing for my family if they needed it. That night, I didn't even consider not going. I missed the Wahine volleyball game, though."

Honolulu Fire Department



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