On October 17, the Kuhio Beach surfboard racks in Waikiki burst into flames. The resulting blaze is estimated to have caused more than $650,000 in damages in lost surfboards and burned buildings. It’s the second time the rack has been lit up in the last 20 months. A few days later, on October 19, authorities arrested 48-year-old Glenn Helton for first-degree arson. According to Honolulu Police, it’s not the first time Helton has been brought in for lighting fires. Another suspect, a 43-year-old who was brought in quickly after the fire, has been released, police said.
The Waikiki surfboard rack fire sent enormous plumes of smoke into the air. The rack was just a few feet from the Waikiki police substation, located between that building and the Moana Surfrider hotel. The fire prompted the evacuation of both structures. The last fire, which happened on Feb. 27, 2020, destroyed 525 surfboards.
“It’s senseless,” Dive Oahu beach boy Chad Williams told Hawaii News Now. “You know, some of those boards have been locals’ grandparents’ boards. You know, lots of history.”
Helton was arrested just a few blocks from the fire. He was spotted at Princess Kaiulani Triangle Park and law enforcement was able to bring him in. Hawaii News Now reported that Helton was also recorded starting another fire in a garbage can a few weeks earlier, on October 9. That blaze damaged a nearby apartment complex. In the most recent fire, Helton was caught on surveillance cameras again, which led to his subsequent arrest.
Locals are optimistic that Helton’s arrest will end of the string of blazes. “Hopefully it won’t happen ever again,” said Jill Hansen who works next door at San Lorenzo Waikiki.
Helton is being held on a $70,000 bail. Charges against him are pending.