Surveillance video shows arson suspect testing lighter before Waikiki blaze

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Surveillance video obtained by police shows the man charged in the large Waikiki surf rack fire over the weekend walks towards the area with a lighter.

Court documents released Thursday indicate that the video shows Glenn Helton, 48, picking up the lighter from the ground behind the Kalakaua Avenue police station on Sunday morning.

He tests the lighter and is then seen walking through the middle of the shelves with a paper towel and reaching between the boards, where smoke appeared shortly after, according to court documents.

Police said no one else was nearby.

Helton, charged with first-degree arson, appeared before a judge for the first time on Thursday morning. His bond remains at $ 70,000 and he is expected to be back in court on Monday for a preliminary hearing.

Helton has five previous convictions, including assault and criminal property damage.

Firefighters said signs worth $ 300,000 were destroyed in Sunday’s blaze. The nearby police station, a snack bar and the Moana Surfrider hotel were also damaged.

This is the second time in two years that the surf racks have burned down.

For ocean enthusiasts, it’s not about whether the city should replace the surf racks at Kuhio Beach, it’s how it should be done.

“Not having them there is not the answer. It has to be there, ”said Alex Utal, owner of Used Surf Boards Hawaii. “The cameras are great. But it’s responsive. You need to find a more proactive way to prevent this from happening again. “

These surf racks in particular were a little over a year old. Those who preceded them were also the target of an arsonist.

“It’s so obvious. You have to do things to prevent it, ”said John Shockley, head of the Free Access Coalition, which advocates for ocean access.

He said the racks are vital for hundreds of Oahu residents who may not have the option of storing a board at home or carrying it to the beach.

If and when the racks will be rebuilt, he said, more thought will have to be given to saving the resource.

“The fire fighting system is so simple. Simply place the shower system on top of the brackets. Make it sensitive to heat or smoke, ”Shockley said. “Even though it’s a false positive, you just get the surfboards wet. “

The city couldn’t say much about the future of the shelving, just that a company had been hired to clean up the site. Repairs to the surfboard lockers, cameras, slab and light poles are estimated at approximately $ 220,000.

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