Waikiki surf-rack arsonist had his first day in court; documents described what happened

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The man accused of setting fire to the Kuhio Beach Surfboard Lockers was in court Thursday, Oct. 21, and he is being held on $70,000 bail. Court documents described how 48-year-old Glenn Helton apparently started the blaze that caused more than $600,000 in damage.

Crews were hard at work cleaning debris from the fire on Sunday, Oct. 17. Surfers and Waikiki regulars said they are overjoyed police caught the suspect who allegedly started the blaze.

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On Sunday afternoon, thick and black smoke could be seen for miles from Waikiki. Bright, red flames shot up to the sky. The fire spread quickly and devoured hundreds of surfboards chained to the Kuhio Beach Surfboard Lockers for safekeeping.

More than 575 surfboards were destroyed, according to the City Department of Enterprise Services that manages the lockers. Nearby structures were also scorched. In all, the fire caused an estimated $650,000 in damage.

The man who allegedly started the fire is Glenn Helton. Court documents described video footage of a man walking behind the Waikiki sub-station with a bowl of food in his left hand at 11:04 a.m. Sunday. The man stopped and picked up a lighter from the ground, tested to see if it worked and walked into the ‘H’ row of the surf rack.

A moment later, the video showed that the man “bends down again and picks up a piece of paper or napkin with his right hand and extends it to the same area,” then he walked away at approximately 11:05 a.m. About four minutes later, the fire erupted.

According to court documents, no one else was seen in the area.

Police arrested Helton on Monday, Oct. 18, a block away from the fire’s location wearing the same clothing as the man seen on the surveillance video. Helton is due back in court for his preliminary hearing on Oct. 25.

“I glad they caught the guy, he deserved it. He better not come down here cause the boys, the boys like lick um. I mean, cause you know how much people you hurt around here? Plenty people.”

Jeffrey Oleole, who lost several boards in the fire

Jeffrey Oleole, who lost several boards in the fire, also said that he was there when it happened.

“I could feel the heat from right here. I had to go cause the cops told us ‘you guys gotta go,'” Oleole added.

Bruce Rodger, another person who lost surfboards to the fire, was also there that day.

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“We just came in from surfing,” Rodger said. “We put our boards away, and we were walking out and my son noticed a funny smell — smelled like fireworks. I noticed it too. We didn’t know what it was, and then we left. Three minutes later, the whole place was on fire.”

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