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Juvenile arrested under suspicion of starting four fires near Midway, including Saddle Fire burning at 200 acres

Posted at 9:59 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 00:03:36-04

MIDWAY, Utah – A juvenile has been taken into custody under suspicion of igniting four fires in the Midway area in the last week, including one that officials have dubbed the "Saddle Fire," currently burning at no containment.

The Saddle Fire continued to burn more than 200 acres just north of Midway Tuesday night.

The Wasatch Fire District said the fire started around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon, but grew quickly due to sporadic winds and a dry landscape.

“The winds have been pretty bad, and they’ve swirled and they’ve come back. Every once in a while we will see big flare ups and that’s the oak brush burning,” said Janet Carson with Wasatch Fire District.

The fire marks the fourth in the area in the last week. However, fire officials said any blaze in Wasatch County is abnormal this time of year – leading crews to expect suspicious behavior early on.

All the while, fire crews evacuated nine residences (only four of which housed full-time residents) in the upper Interlaken neighborhood – the area nearest to the burn scar.

The evacuated neighbors gathered down the hill in a parking lot with their pets, cars and essential belongings in tow.

“We have five cats: four from our neighbor, and then this is my cat, Jinxy,” said Renee Burkley as she sat on a grassy patch next to five occupied cat kennels. “We have all kinds of critters out here.”

Renee and her husband took what they could on short notice and left their house behind.

“If you have kids, you get them out. If you have pets, you get them out,” Renee continued.

Now, she is among a handful of other residents, watching and hoping their home is safe.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented pandemic in the world. This is just another thing we have to deal with,” Renee said.

Despite the last-minute evacuation, Renee said this is nothing new.

“This is the fourth fire this week that we’ve had up here,” Renee said. “Four in one week.”

“We all suspect that it’s probably arson, which is scary,” she said.

Her speculations have since been proven true.

Just before 6 p.m., the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office took one juvenile suspect into custody, who they believe acted alone in starting all four fires near the Interlaken and Pine Canyon areas north of Midway.

Now, as acres of hillsides continue to burn and smolder, fire officials hope others realize that playing with fire can get other people burned.

“We have firefighters that have put their lives in danger on that mountain today and a hundred lives or more have been in danger today because a juvenile chose to do something like this,” Carson said. “This is pretty serious, this is not just a game.”

The Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office said, given the current fire behavior, Interlaken residents and those in the Dutch Hills subdivision should be prepared to evacuate their homes. They ask that residents have medications and personal belongings for 48 hours.

The evacuation site will be a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse at 165 North Center in Midway. WCSO will have personnel on site to greet residents and provide updates on the fire behavior, should people choose to leave their homes before being asked to evacuate. The Red Cross will also be available at that location in the coming hours.

WCSO attributed the apprehension of the suspect to alerts of suspicious activity, followed by the quick work by law enforcement.

Even though an arrest has been made, this is still an ongoing investigation and no charges have been filed.

Anyone with information pertaining to the case may call Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office at 435-654-1411.

Crews will continue to monitor the flames overnight and return first thing Wednesday morning.