A former Honolulu firefighter fired just a few months ago is the man suspected of starting three brush fires in Hawaii Kai on Thursday, KITV has learned.
The Honolulu Fire Department veteran is a "troubled man" who was terminated for trying to manipulate the outcome of his random drug test, sources told KITV.
HFD said it is cooperating with police, who have opened an arson investigation targeting the longtime fireman.
Firefighters battled three brush fires that scorched 8 acres in Hawaii Kai. The fires were apparently set one after the other between 6:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Police arrested Kenton F. Leong, 41, of Kailua, near the scene of the third fire by the Makapuu Lighthouse. He spent 17 years as a city firefighter until he was fired in March.
Bobby Lee is the president of the firefighters' union.
"Like anybody else, you're innocent until proven guilty. With that said, if he is guilty of starting fires, it's just a very sad situation, because as firefighters, our job is to save and protect lives and property," Lee said.
Before he was terminated, Leong worked at HFD's Kalihi Kai Fire Station along Nimitz Highway, where he was a rescue specialist on Rescue 2.
"This is a shock to us," HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said. "We're saddened to learn of the arrest of a former firefighter."
Seelig said HFD is cooperating with the Honolulu Police Department in its arson investigation.
"It's not typical of firefighters, as you know, we put fires out. I can't think of a similar occurrence at any time in my career," Seelig said.
Leong was fired for asking fellow firefighters to provide a urine sample he could use for the fire department's random drug tests sources told KITV. He ended up with a clean drug test result, but was terminated because he tried to get others to take the test for him, according to sources.
"It's an unfortunate situation, and it just goes further (to) really point out that we're no different than any other profession. We're subject to the same social issues that any other profession is subject to," Lee said.
The union has filed a grievance on Leong's behalf, as is standard when firefighters get fired, to ensure his rights were protected, Lee said.
Leong remained at HPD's main police cellblock in custody. He had not been charged with anything by Friday afternoon. He was arrested on first-degree arson charges.
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