Friday, November 27, 2015         


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Man behind Koko Head fire left job shortly after incident

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Question: What ever happened to the City and County of Hono­lulu employee who fired off the flare at the Koko Head Gun Range last year that started the huge fire and required a helicopter to rescue hikers on the nearby trail? Initial word was he would lose his job. Did this employee actually receive punishment?

Answer: Kevin Nakagami, the range officer at the Koko Head Gun Range who was arrested for allegedly firing the flare, left the employment of the city on Dec. 1, just less than two months after the fire, according to the city.

Whether he was terminated or left voluntarily is unclear.

Nakagami, now 30, was arrested shortly after the fire on Oct. 7, 2011, on suspicion of first-degree arson, a Class B felony. He was released two days later pending investigation. A spokes­man for the Hono­lulu prosecutors office said Naka­gami has not been charged but the case remains under review.

Nakagami could not be reached for comment through his Facebook page. Shortly after being released from jail, however, he apologized for his actions in an interview with Hawaii News Now.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Naka­gami told Hawaii News Now. “It was a stupid mistake on my part.”

Fire officials said the flare was fired from someone at the city-operated rifle range at about 3:25 p.m. It landed near the Koko Crater railway trail about halfway to the top, fire officials said.

As a result, six hikers above the fire were cut off and could not come down. A police helicopter was dispatched to airlift them off the trail.

Meanwhile, about 30 firefighters fought the fire by working up the trail as fire choppers dropped water from overhead. Complicating the situation were windy and dry conditions that drove the fire across several acres of brush.

The fire was declared contained about 6:30 p.m.

In the late 2000s the city for a short time contemplated shutting down the wooden stairs that make up the trail, which follows an abandoned World War II-era railroad track straight up the side of the crater. One of the reasons cited was conflicting uses between the hikers and gun enthusiasts.


This update was written by Gordon Pang. Suggest a topic for “Whatever Happened To…” by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or email

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