South Jordan police seek suspects after iconic cottonwood tree set on fire

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 21:38:06-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah -- Police in South Jordan are searching for the people responsible for setting a cottonwood tree on fire that's more than 100 years old.

The fire took place just feet away from homes being built in a new housing development known as McKee Farms.

"This was a very dangerous situation that could have been a whole lot worse," said resident Brady Haider.

Haider was in his front yard around midnight Tuesday when he smelled smoke.

"I had to do a triple take, but the big iconic tree was on fire," Haider said.

Haider used his doorbell camera to film the century-old tree burning behind his neighbor's fence. He immediately called 911.

"If I would have went in for the night and went to bed, who knows what would have happened?" said Haider.

Neighbors used buckets to toss water from the nearby canal onto the flames, before firefighters could take over.

On Wednesday the city and property owner assessed the damage. The middle of the trunk was left severely charred. However, an arborist believes the tree will survive.

"To have somebody come here and start it on fire, it's unheard of, its uncalled for to damage to something like this," said Brent Michaelsen, of the Utah Lake Water Distribution Company.

The tree and canal are owned by the Utah Lake Water Distribution Company. They say this tree is historic, home to numerous rope swings and tree houses over the years.

Some even say it's the basis for the South Jordan city logo, but the city could not confirm that.

Police are investigating the fire as arson and believe some local teenagers are most likely responsible.

"We are looking at some different leads, we've talked to a few different people; we think we know who is responsible for it, but it's still an active investigation," said Lt. Matt Pennington with the South Jordan Police Department.