Police arrest man accused of setting 2 fires in 2 days

Published: Wednesday, July 27 2011 2:52 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A convicted arsonist wanted for questioning in connection with an  grass fire in Memory Grove turned himself in to police Wednesday and was arrested.

Wilbert Fike, 53, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of misdemeanor reckless burning. It was the second time in two days Fike was arrested for allegedly setting fires in that area.

Fike was also arrested Tuesday for investigation of starting another fire just 100 feet away from where Wednesday's fire was set.

About 5 a.m. Wednesday, Salt Lake City fire crews were called to Memory Grove in the area just above Memory Grove Park and near City Creek Road, said Salt Lake fire spokesman Mark Bednarik. The fire scorched only 3 acres, but it was 200 yards away from jumping the road, where it likely would have reached homes.

"We called for additional resources," Bednarik said. "We stopped it just at City Creek Road before it jumped it."

It took about 20 minutes for firefighters to bring the blaze under control and an hour to put it out completely. No structures were damaged. Investigators determined the fire was started by arson.

About 11 a.m., just as crews were looking for Fike, he walked into the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building and surrendered.

On Tuesday, Fike flagged down a police officer and turned himself in for a fire he said he started, according to Bednarik. Upon further investigation, firefighters found a 10-by-10-foot patch of grass that had been burned but was put out by Tuesday's rainfall.

The man was cited and released.

Court records show Fike is already a convicted arsonist. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor arson. He was sentenced to a year in jail with credit for time served.

In that incident, Fike set a fire in City Creek Canyon on July 23 near 1055 N. City Creek Road. Three days later, he turned himself in to the city fire marshal stating that "his intent was to go back to prison," according to court documents. He said he started the fire with matches he bought at a gas station and picked City Creek because "he thought it was an area he could escape from," according to court records.

In 2007, he was convicted of third-degree felony arson, and a second count of arson and a charge of reckless burning were dismissed. He was sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Court records also show Fike pleaded guilty to five counts of sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony in 1988. He is currently listed on the Utah Sex Offender Registry.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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