Kauai News

Homeless Man Arrested on Suspicion of Arson

Posted September 12, 2020, 1:47 PM HST ·Updated September 12, 4:58 PM

A 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson after a brush fire broke out near Salt Pond Beach Park and Burns Field in Hanapēpē Friday afternoon.

Multiple units from Kaua‘i Fire Department were dispatched to the scene shortly before 12:30 p.m. The Hawai‘i Army National Guard also responded to the incident, in addition to a crew from the Department of Public Works who assisted with a water tender and compact loader.

Homeless individuals in the area were evacuated by the Kaua‘i Police Department. Kuiloko and Lokokai roads were closed to incoming traffic while crews were responding to the fire.
The blaze was deemed under control at approximately 2:15 p.m. and fully extinguished shortly before 5:30 p.m., leaving roughly five acres of land scorched.

Crews later returned to the area to extinguish reported hot spots that flared up at approximately 8 p.m., and cleared the scene at 8:45 p.m. No injuries or structural damages were reported.

Kaua‘i police arrested Jeremy Riopta, 40, who has no permanent address, on suspicion of second-degree arson.

According to a preliminary investigation, several witnesses reported that Riopta allegedly lit a mattress on fire in the vicinity of the Salt Pond Beach Park homeless camp and as the fire spread, he was seen feeding it with dried brush.

Riopta remains in custody and his bail is set at $5,000. The investigation remains ongoing.

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