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Police seek serial arsonist after series of fires in West Valley City

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Jul 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-24 19:46:34-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Firefighters and police in West Valley City are trying to catch a serial arsonist.

WVC Fire Department personnel said they think the person or persons acting together are behind at least eight to 10 fires over the past several weeks.

“We've had crews that have responded on several dumpster fires; in one night they had three fires,” said Jeff Fox, a Battalion Chief for the West Valley City Fire Department.

He said the dumpsters have been located at apartment complexes, a church and outside businesses. Most of the fires have been set in one area of town. Fox said the radius spans from 4400 South to 5000 South, and from 4800 West to 3600 West.

“A lot of times they’re right next to buildings,” Fox said.

That gives each fire the potential to spread, he said, making for a dangerous situation. At Life Church on 4700 South and Bangerter Highway, a recycling bin in the back parking lot sits charred and burnt, with signs it’s been holding more than paper.

A nearby daycare said someone lit the dumpster's contents on fire on July 9 around 12:30 a.m., and surveillance cameras on their building caught the flames—as well as a possible suspect walking away from the area of the dumpster fire.

The man appears to be wearing a backpack, ball cap, T-shirt and shorts as he walks along the parking lot. Each fire, like the one at Life Church, was sparked suddenly in the middle of the night.

That’s part of what makes the case so hard to crack.

“You can throw something that’s already on fire in a dumpster, walk away and you're gone,” Fox said.

Another fire West Valley City crews responded to happened at Tay Do Supermarket on July 18. That blaze, which burned a metal shipping container, was also caught on camera.

Surveillance footage shows the suspect wearing a ball cap, sweatshirt and shorts. He is possibly carrying a gas can as well.

That fire destroyed store products and supplies for a festival. Fox said they aren’t sure if the Tay Do fire is related to the other fires, because it happened on Redwood Road outside of the perimeter of the other fires.

What they do know is that this has to stop before the fires spiral into more serious blazes.

If anyone recognizes the person in either surveillance video, or if they think they may know who set the fires, please call West Valley Police at 801-840-4000.

Fox also said anyone who sees one of these dumpster fires should call 911 and report it, then stop and look for anyone who may be lurking around to watch the fire. He said often an arsonist will want to see the blaze and the fire department’s response.