Police release arson suspect without charges for Waikiki surfboard rack fire

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Fire crews had an extremely busy Sunday morning responding to a raging fire in Waikiki that closed down portions of Kalakaua Ave.

Beachgoers and visitors stood by to catch a glimpse of the black plumes of smoke that could be seen from miles away. Witnesses told KHON2 that the flames looked at least 30 feet high.

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Fire crews arrived on scene at approximately 11:18 a.m. where they discovered several storage racks of surfboards fully engulfed in flames. Ten units staffed with 37 personnel responded to the fire.

According to the Honolulu Fire Department (HFD), the blaze was located at the surfboard racks in the beach access alleyway between the Moana Surfrider hotel and the Waikiki police substation. Crews evacuated occupants of both buildings as they concentrated on controlling the fire spread, which was scorching the exterior of the hotel and concession stand. Firefighters also focused on controlling the fire to the police substation’s exterior walls and the adjacent coconut trees.

“Major damage was obviously the surf board rack that was on fire and also the restaurant that was involved,” said Honolulu Fire Acting Battalion Chief Elden Tanaka. “Just exterior damage to the police substation.”

The fire turned a normal beach day into a scene from a movie for some bystanders who applauded first responders for their fast action to put out the fire. Officials said the flames were fully extinguished at around noon.

“The first responders were amazing as they always are,” said Jennifer Hayes, a witness. “They immediately took action. Everyone was kind of panicking.”

This isn’t the first time HFD has been called to this exact spot. Last year, the surfboard racks were set on fire, damaging an estimated 525 boards. Police opened a first-degree arson investigation and released surveillance video of a suspect, however, no arrests were ever made.

“The reports from my guys is this is a larger fire than the last time. It was well involved when they arrived,” said Chief Tanaka. “One of my firefighters was at the scene the last time that they were here too. It was a much larger fire than the first surfboard rack fire.”

According to police, HFD investigators determined that the fire was not accidental and caused approximately more than $20,000 in damage.

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Police arrested a 43-year-old man at around 11:48 a.m. on suspicion of first-degree arson. Police said he was in the immediate proximity at the time of the fire.

However, the man was later released without charges, according to police.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police or CrimeStoppers.

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