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Man arrested for 'reckless,' 'negligent' actions that caused massive Utah wildfire, police say

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 23:15:22-04

STOCKTON, Utah — A man who said a malfunction with his generator caused the 4,000+ acre Jacob City Fire in Tooele County has been arrested after investigators found evidence that they say did not match up with his account of what happened.

Gary Carr was arrested Tuesday for reckless burning and reckless endangerment, according to Stockton Police.

When Carr spoke to FOX 13 News on Monday, he said his brand new generator exploded which he believed caused the fire. He said he felt "scared, lost and confused" and everything he owned was lost.

Police said Carr called 911 Saturday around 2:30 p.m. to report that his generator caught fire, and the flames had spread to nearby trees.

The local police department, along with the Utah State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, began an investigation.

"The burn patterns, and other physical evidence at the scene did not match up with Carr’s initial statements," Stockton Police wrote in a press release.

Police obtained a search warrant for Carr's RV and generator, and investigators interviewed witnesses such as firefighters and civilians who were in the area.

They also interviewed Carr, who allegedly admitted to what police are now calling "negligent behavior."

He said he plugged a circular saw into his recently purchased generator, which was refurbished and "like new," but it got extremely hot while in use. He said he then placed the saw — which had previously had its cord cut, then spliced and taped back together — on the back of his RV, which was reportedly near a sealed gas can. Carr said he then connected the generator to the RV and went inside.

About 10 minutes later, Carr said he heard a loud "pop" and hissing noises, so he ran out and saw that the top of the generator and surrounding trees were on fire.

"He attempted to put water on the generator fire; however, the gas from the exploded can accelerated the fire," Stockton Police wrote. "Carr attempted to dig the fire out, and in his haste tossed burning sage and embers under the RV, where another full 5-gallon gas can was located. The spreading of burning embers, and the now heated gas can, caused the RV to also catch fire."

He said that's when he called 911.

Carr was booked into the Tooele County Jail without incident. The county attorney's office will determine official charges.

"Negligence does not release a party from responsibility and consequences of an incident that occurs due to his/her actions," police wrote in the announcement. "Members of the public need to be aware of current conditions while recreating on public lands. Special precautions should be taken to prevent wildfires from occurring."

The police department shared the following tips:

1. Be mindful in general when recreating outdoors, especially during fire season.
2. Use caution when operating equipment that can create heat or sparks. When using equipment outdoors, have on hand fire extinguishers, adequate water, and hand tools. These activities should be avoided during peak heat hours.
3. Check equipment for faulty wiring or damage before use, as this has potential to short-circuit.
4. Do not place recently used tools or equipment next to fuel sources or dry vegetation. The heat from the equipment can easily combust, becoming an accelerant.
5. Keep fuel stored in a shaded area, away from any potential ignition sources or equipment.
6. If a fuel fire occurs, adding water will accelerate the fire.
7. Extra precaution should be taken when recreating during extreme temperatures, high wind events, and low relative humidity. This is even more important on Red Flag Warning days.

Sierra Hellstrom with the Northern Utah Interagency Type 3 Incident Management team said despite Tuesday’s three-digit temperatures, the humidity helped firefighters out in the high-terrain areas.

“We have actually flown crews into some of those higher areas to avoid any slips, trips or falls or injuries that may occur while trying to hike in,” she said.

Hellstrom said lightning strikes from incoming storms could cause secondary fires.

“Anyone who is living near a wildland-urban interface area: Be prepared. Watch the storms, and try and mitigate any circumstances that you may cause to one of these fires,” she said.