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BREAKING: Trio with criminal history arrested in connection with spate of Maui brush fires

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A civilian witnessed one of the fires being intentionally set and immediately called police. He furnished a description of the male suspect and his vehicle, according to Assistant Police Chief Randy Esperanza. VC: Wendy Osher
VC: Wendy Osher

Maui Police during a news conference this afternoon said three individuals with criminal backgrounds were arrested in connection with six brush fires that ignited in less than two hours in Central Maui on Thursday.

Despite high winds and dry conditions, the spate of brush fires was quickly extinguished and no injuries or property damage occurred. However, traffic was snarled for hours due to road closures, and residents off Kahekili Highway had to be temporarily evacuated. The fires occurred between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

John Hlis, 34, of Hāʻiku, Krystale Kaneakua, 33, of Pukalani, and Steven Sarol, 36, of Pukalani, were arrested in connection with the brush fires, police said during the news conference today.

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A civilian witnessed one of the fires being intentionally set and immediately called police. He furnished a description of the male suspect and his vehicle, according to Assistant Police Chief Randy Esperanza.

Soon, Hlis was found and placed under arrest.

Esperanza said police had footage of Kaneakua and Hlis entering a store and purchasing a gas can, lighter fluid, charcoal and Lysol prior to start of brush fires.

  • Esperanza said police had footage of Kaneakua and Hlis entering a store and purchasing a gas can, lighter fluid, charcoal and Lysol prior to start of brush fires. PC: courtesy Maui Police Department
  • Steven Sarol, 36, of Pukalani
  • Krystale Sharyan Kaneakua, 33, of Pukalani
  • John Hlis, 34, of Haʻikū
  • A civilian witnessed one of the fires being intentionally set and immediately called police. He furnished a description of the male suspect and his vehicle, according to Assistant Police Chief Randy Esperanza. VC: Wendy Osher
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Sarol and Kaneakua were arrested today, and police said Sarol’s connection with the fires is that he is the boyfriend of Kaneakua.

“It is with strong confidence that we believe that the persons responsible for starting the fires have been arrested,” Esperanza said.

In response to Maui Now’s question, police said the three did have prior criminal histories but declined to disclose details because the investigation is ongoing. Maui Now also asked about possible motives, but no answers were given.

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The three acted in concert, police said. They added that charges will be coming.

Officials thanked the community for providing information that led to the arrests. Also, Maui Fire Department and others were praised for their efforts to contain the fires quickly.

Rapid wildfires that swept through Central Maui in 2019 charred acres of brush, stalled traffic and forced evacuations. Some were linked to arson.

Kehaulani Cerizo
Kehaulani Cerizo was born and raised on Maui and worked for nearly 15 years as a news reporter, copy editor and features editor at daily newspapers. She earned awards at The Maui News in Wailuku and at Today’s Local News in San Diego.
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