Federal team to help investigate Salt Lake fire that caused $2.5 million in damage

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11 2014 1:00 p.m. MST

Fire crews respond Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 to a four-alarm fire at 550 East 500 South in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal investigators from the Denver office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were expected to arrive in Salt Lake Tuesday to help comb through the remains of Sunday's four-alarm inferno.

Fire ripped through a 64,000-square-foot building under construction at 540 E. 500 South. Investigators raised the damage estimate Tuesday to $2.5 million.

“ATF is committed to investigating this fire alongside our state and local partners. We will share our fire investigation expertise and resources to thoroughly examine the origin and cause of the fire,” Luke Franey, the division's special agent in charge, said in a prepared statement.

Salt Lake fire spokesman Jasen Asay cautioned that just because a federal team is being brought in to help with the investigation, it doesn't necessarily mean the cause of the fire is suspicious.

"Because of the severity of the fire, the amount of damage that it caused, we're able to request the national response team. It doesn't necessarily mean the fire is arson-related," he said.

The federal team is expected to have a planning meeting with Salt Lake officials Tuesday evening and start going through the remains of the structure Wednesday with investigators from the Salt Lake City Fire Department, "reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the incident," Asay said.

Meanwhile, a man arrested Sunday night for allegedly impersonating a firefighter at the scene of the blaze said officials made a huge mistake regarding his intent.

"They had no right to arrest me whatsoever. I wasn't doing anything illegal, I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was doing what the fire investigators told me," said Joshua Warren Murray.

Murray, 27, was arrested for investigation of impersonating an officer. Fire officials do not believe he had anything to do with starting the fire but contend that he was in a restricted area acting like official fire personnel.

Murray said he is part of Salt Lake's Community Emergency Response Team and has assisted the Red Cross at incidents twice in the past. He said he was there to help and was told by other police and fire officials to just keep bystanders behind the restricted area.

"I don't have a dang fascination with fire. I go out and I help people," he said. "I was where police told me to be, making sure people weren't going in front of the fire line."

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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