CENTERVILLE, Utah — A house in Centerville was engulfed in flames and completely destroyed Thursday after a home invasion suspect lit the building on fire.
Large flames and heavy smoke could be seen for miles coming from the home at 329 East 1825 North. A mobile home was also destroyed, and two surrounding homes were slightly damaged in what police are calling arson.
Damages from the fire are projected to be close to $1.2 million.
According to Centerville police, an armed 37-year-old white male was reportedly acting erratically and trying to steal vehicles in the neighborhood before entering the home.
Once inside, he told the three elderly adults who were in the residence he was going to "burn the home down with them inside of it," police reported.
“This was an unknown individual to them,” said Centerville Police Chief Paul Child. “A complete stranger who entered their home and burnt it down.”
The man then dumped gasoline around the house and on two of the victims before starting the fire. Police say he also hit two of the victims with his fists, causing non-life threatening injuries.
The suspect then tried to steal the homeowner's car, police said, but was unsuccessful and then went back inside, barricading himself inside the house.
“It’s kind of incomprehensible that this happened,” said neighbor Christopher Allen.
Video below shows the Centerville home after it was set on fire (Courtesy: Lori Carson)
When officers got to the home, they located the man hiding inside. He told police he was "armed with a knife." Officers used a Taser to take the man into custody.
“They rushed in, took care of a combative, aggressive person who was burning down a house with people inside,” said Child.
The three elderly victims who were unknown to the suspect were transported to the hospital with blunt force trauma injuries.
Police said the suspect, who was from Salt Lake City was also taken to the hospital. His identity is being withheld until he is booked into jail.
Six officers on the scene were treated for smoke inhalation.
About a dozen other homes in the area were temporarily evacuated while responders got the fire under control and the man into custody.
It took crews 45 minutes to extinguish the fire, with solar panels at the home making it more difficult.
“Our primary concern was not only the home fire but the hillside,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dave Powers with South Davis Metro Fire. “The home sits very close to that so we did have them put out some spot fires.”
Neighbors want to know more including the man’s motive and why he chose the house.
“To be prepared like that, I don’t know why you’d do that to a stranger’s home,” said neighbor Cyndi Lawrence. “From all the different things that you hear it sounds like they were lucky to get out.”
The home was owned by Clarence and Beth Newman, according to a GoFundMe page set up by a family member.
"Due to the actions of this complete stranger, Clarence and Beth were left with nothing but ashes of what was once their day-to-day life," the GoFundMe stated. "Clarence built this house, and his kids were raised in it. To have it all taken away in one afternoon by a total stranger is truly heartbreaking."