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Convicted arsonist, who twice turned himself in this week for Memory Grove fires, is charged

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 8:14 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A convicted arsonist, who twice turned himself in to police for setting two fires in Memory Grove on two different days this week, has been charged with misdemeanor reckless burning.

Wilbert Edward Fike, Jr., 53, of Salt Lake City, first turned himself in on Tuesday, investigators say, when he flagged down an officer, and said he’d set a fire in Memory Grove. Investigators found a 10-by-10-foot patch of grass above Memory Grove Park that had been burned, but the blaze had been put out by rainfall.

Fike was arrested, cited and released.

Wednesday, Fike again turned himself in after a 5 a.m. Memory Grove fire that burned three acres and nearly threatened homes behind the state Capitol. Just as crews were beginning to look for Fike, he walked into the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building around 11 a.m. and surrendered, police said.

Wednesday’s fire was started on the west side of Memory Grove just 100 feet from the first fire, and it was spreading up a hill toward the east side of Capitol Boulevard. Firefighters stopped it at Bonneville Drive, charges state. Investigators determined the fire was arson.

Wednesday, Fike was booked into Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of misdemeanor reckless burning in connection with the fires, and he was charged on two counts Friday. Police say Fike told investigators he started Wednesday’s fire with a yellow cigarette lighter.

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. Three days later, he turned himself in, saying that "his intent was to go back to prison," according to court documents. In 2007, he was also convicted of third-degree felony arson and 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.

Ladd Brubaker, Pat Reavy

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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