Fire officials continue to investigate rise in suspicious fires

Posted at 10:44 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 10:24:47-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Crews have responded to dozens of fires this season in several communities throughout northern Utah. Many of the blazes are considered suspicious.

Authorities say it’s the most arson cases the state has seen in years with total damages ranging into millions of dollars.

In Tooele, flames tore through 18 homes. In South Jordan, two homes burned to ground.

“There’s no other crime that’s quite as devastating and can have a lot of repercussions for years on a family,” said Coy Porter, State Fire Marshall.

Currently, Porter said, there are a number of unsolved cases his department is investigating.

“They don’t realize a small match, a lighter or something can cause such horrendous amount of damage,” Porter said.

Along with Tooele and South Jordan, fires have been reported in Draper, Lehi, Herriman, Farmington, Bountiful, Centerville, Provo, Ogden and West Valley – all assumed arson.

“It is an uptick this year,” Porter said. “It’s probably been about four years since we’ve seen a rise like this.”

Despite the increase in fires, officials say, the exact number of arson cases isn’t tracked.

The most recent rash of fires occurred Sunday when six suspicious grass fires started all within an hour of each other between Herriman, Draper and Lehi.

“It's a very large area that we're dealing with and we just don't know,” said Eric Holmes with UFA Sunday.

Holmes said firefighters don’t know if it’s one person or several or if the blazes are intentional.

“They’re suspicious in nature and it certainly warrants as much investigation as we can give it,” Holmes said.

Price tag for these arson fires can reach into the millions, but even a dumpster fire costs $1,000 for crews to respond and put it out. Literally throwing away tax payer dollars.

Fire fighters say the best thing you can do to help is to pay attention and be a good witness.