Six Kauai firefighters promoted

LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., along with Kaua'i Fire Chief Robert Westerman and Deputy Chief John Blalock, held a special pinning-on ceremony Friday morning to promote six firefighters at the Līhu'e Civic Center's Moikeha courtyard.

"Each of these newly promoted men are dedicated to serving the department and the entire Kaua'i community," said Fire Chief Robert Westerman. "They continuously strive for more of themselves, and in doing so they motivate others to do the same. We are truly grateful for their service."

Michael "Imai" Karratti was promoted today to Firefighter II. Karratti is a graduate of Waimea High School and played men's volleyball with the University of Hawai'i for two years before returning home in 2005. Karratti is grateful to his wife, Jessica, for her commitment to their family and two young children, especially when Karratti must work extended hours. Karratti has spent the past two years with the Līhu'e station and has gained invaluable training and great friends. He thanks all of his crew members, past and present, and looks forward to continuing to do his very best job for the department and the community.

James Pelegrino, originally of California, began his career as an Ocean Safety Officer for the city of Long Beach. He then became a firefighter in Lynwood, CA., before moving to Kaua'i in 1989. Pelegrino was a firefighter with PMRF for roughly six years prior to joining the County of Kaua'i Fire Department. He has been stationed in Kōloa for the past 12 years and currently resides in Kalāheo with his fiancée, Margie. Pelegrino enjoys surfing and all water activities during his time off. He will now serve as a Firefighter II.

Ronald Bush, also of California, will now serve as a Firefighter III. Bush eventually moved to Kaua'i after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since joining the department in 1999, Bush has worked at the Hanalei, Kapa'a, Kaiakea and Kalāheo stations. In addition to teaching CPR, coaching, and being a substitute teacher, Bush enjoys being a husband and father and spending time with his wife, Janice, and their three children.

Also promoted to Firefighter III was Corey Sakai, who has been with the department for 13 years. Sakai has had the privilege of working at all stations across the island and has worked under seven Fire Captains, including his Līhu'e Captain, Clinton Fujii, who Sakai has served for the past 10 years. Sakai is grateful to his wife, Chelsie, and his family, friends and co-workers for their continued support throughout his career.

Kilipaki Vaughan was the fifth firefighter to receive a promotion today and now serves as a Firefighter III. A graduate of 'Iolani School and the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Vaughan currently resides in Kilauea with his wife, Mehana, and their three children. In addition to spending time with his family, Vaughan enjoys surfing, music and playing steel guitar. He is grateful to his past Captains and sends a special mahalo to his Rescue 3 crew, under Capt. Kawamura's leadership, for the amazing experiences and lessons learned while serving with them.

The ceremony concluded with the promotion of Jason Ornellas to the position of Battalion Fire Chief. Ornellas began his career in 1988, working at all stations from Hanalei to Waimea, in addition to the Rescue and HAZMAT teams. Ornellas is a graduate of Kapa'a High School and served in the Air Force before joining the Kaua'i Fire Department. He would like to acknowledge his wife and family, as well as all of his past and current crew members, each of whom has played an integral role in his career and personal development. Ornellas currently lives in 'Ele'ele with his wife, Maryann. His son, Jarrick, is currently stationed in England while serving our country in the Air Force. Ornellas looks forward to the new challenges he now faces as a Battalion Chief, and he is eager to continue serving the department and the people of Kaua'i.

Ornellas succeeds outgoing Battalion Chief Russell Yee. Yee retired at the end of last year after dedicating 22 years to the Kaua'i Fire Department. He served as a Battalion Chief for the past seven years.

"We are so proud of these men for the hard work they have and will continue to do for our community," said Mayor Carvalho. "Thank you for your service and commitment, and a special mahalo to your 'ohana, who support you in your dedication to making Kaua'i a safer place for all of us."

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