Makakilo man is charged in Kapolei fire
Police in a helicopter saw Chase Merritt, 18, running from the area
Police charged an 18-year-old Makakilo man with fourth-degree arson yesterday after a police helicopter spotted him running from a Kapolei brush fire.
Chase Merritt is the third person to be charged under a new, stricter arson law.
Merritt was charged with the misdemeanor for allegedly setting a 3-acre brush fire Wednesday near Kapolei Hale. Bail has been set at $2,000.
Police flying the helicopter were on a biannual re-certification flight when they noticed the man running from the flames, Capt. Frank Fujii said. Through communication with ground units, police caught and arrested Merritt without incident, Fujii said. Merritt faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Firefighters fought the flames for an hour before they were contained and spent another hour extinguishing them, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Kenison Tejada.
In a warning to other possible arsonists, Fujii said, "The community is now aware of the problem. We have eyes in the sky, and sooner or later we'll be catching more and more of you."
Before the new law, Merritt would have been charged with reckless endangering, a petty misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. Merritt does not have a previous criminal record.
The new arson law, enacted this summer, also upgraded a first-degree arson charge from a Class B felony with maximum imprisonment of 10 years to a Class A felony with a maximum of 20 years.