HANAPEPE — Firefighters from the Hanapepe, Kalaheo and Waimea fire stations, along with Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 and the Kauai‘i Fire Department fire-training bureau responded to a brush fire in the Salt Pond Beach Park area, off Kuiloko Road and Lokokai Road, around noon Friday.
Kaua‘i Police Department officers arrested Jeremy Riopta, 40, on suspicion of arson, in relation to the fire. Riopta is currently in custody, and an investigation is ongoing.
The fire reportedly started when a mattress was set ablaze. Calls to dispatch came in around 12:19 p.m., according to an officer on the scene.
White smoke lingered off a dirt road across from the Kaua‘i Veterans Cemetery on Lokokai Road around 2 p.m. near an illegal homeless settlement surrounded by abandoned cars.
The small brush fire was deemed under control around 2:15 p.m., with firefighters on the scene to extinguish hot spots in the area.
The National Weather Service has been issuing Red Flag Warnings for leeward Kaua‘i, most recently for Thursday, which indicates the presence of critical fire weather conditions. It’s the combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures that can contribute to extreme fire danger.
If a fire were to develop in these conditions, it will likely spread rapidly, according to the NWS.
In addition to KFD and KPD, Hawai‘i National Guard members and heavy equipment from the county Department of Public Works were on the scene.
Kuiloko and Lokokai roads were shut down to incoming traffic for about two hours.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.