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Suspect arrested for starting Utah County wildfire was trying to burn spider

Posted at 6:26 PM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 10:50:32-04

SPRINGVILLE, Utah — A wildfire broke out near the border of Provo and Springville Monday and was 90 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

Provo Fire & Rescue, which assisted the Springville Fire Department along with other local agencies, said the fire was first reported around 4:30 p.m.

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A suspect was arrested for allegedly starting the fire. Arrest documents identify the man as 26-year-old Draper resident Cory Allan Martin.

Court documents state that Martin had found a spider on the mountain and was trying to burn the spider with a lighter. After he attempted to light the spider on fire, surrounding brush ignited and the fire spread very rapidly.

"Really without much prompting, he just said, 'Yeah, I was up there, I had a lighter and I was trying to burn [and] kill a spider, and brush around it caught fire,'” Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office said.

He faces one charge of reckless burning, as well as drug-related charges after deputies found marijuana and paraphernalia in his possession.

Utah Wildfire Info (operated by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands) named it the "Springville Fire" and estimated it at 60 acres as of Wednesday.

Helicopters and air tankers assisted in the containment efforts Monday. After overnight rainstorms, crews on the ground will continue to increase the containment and monitor hotspots throughout Tuesday.

“Fairly unique in my experience over the years for human-caused incidents," said Suzie Tenhagen, the public information officer for the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. “Firefighters are working to check for those hotspots to make sure that the fire isn't going to flare up and get outside of its perimeter.”

There have been no reports of structures being threatened or evacuation orders.


“Kind of sad to hear it," said Zach Schumm, an insect and arthropod diagnostician for Utah State University Extension. "I can certainly understand why some people want to kill spiders. But from my perspective, it's like, there's other things that we should probably do.”

Schumm, a spider expert, said people generally hurt or kill insects or spiders for two reasons: Fear or fun.

While trying to burn these creatures for fun is inappropriate and inexcusable, Schumm said those who fear spiders are understandable.

“I understand those situations, I certainly do. Our goal at USU Extension isn't to, you know, shun people for doing things; it's to try to encourage folks to, like, understand why those organisms are beneficial, why they're not harmful to humans,” he said, "[and] why they've been given kind of a bad rep throughout human history. I encourage people to let them be, even if you see them in your house. Most of the time you can just leave them there, and I'm dead serious about that.”

There are only two species of spiders native to Utah that can harm humans: The black widow and the desert recluse. Both are rare to encounter in Utahns' homes or in places that would be regularly traveled.

“Why he did it, we don't have that question answered," Cannon said. "And I'm not really sure I even want to try to get the answer to that because it just doesn't make sense no matter how you look at it.”