Provo fire may be the work of serial arsonist, chief says

Published: Tuesday, June 10 2014 3:41 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, June 10 2014 3:41 p.m. MDT

A suspicious house fire occurred in the early hours at 1587 W. Center on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Provo.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

PROVO — A suspicious fire in Provo Tuesday may be connected to a string of arsons, according Provo fire investigators.

Fire crews responded to a structure fire at 5:23 a.m. that was burning in an abandoned building at 1587 W. Center. Firefighters responded to a fire at the same home in April.

Arriving crews found "heavy smoke coming from this house that we're familiar with," Provo Deputy Fire Chief Tom Augustus said.

Investigators have not determined the cause of Tuesday's fire, but they believe it may be connected with arsons that occurred at and near this home in April. Provo Fire Chief Gary Jolley said there are number of tests and criteria that must be met before officials can confirm Tuesday's fire was also an arson.

An arson investigator was on scene Tuesday, along with a dog to sniff out the possible use of an accelerant. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is involved in the investigation, which includes two small grass fires that were ignited nearby.

This is the second fire in this home in two months, which "screams that we're dealing with the same person," Augustus said. "Houses just don't catch fire a month apart, two months apart, without an excuse. So the excuse we believe is arson."

The home is owned by the Utah Department of Transportation, was empty and no longer has power connected to it. The home was scheduled to be demolished Tuesday, Augustus said.

Jolley said UDOT officials purchased the home while they were working on the I-15 Core project. They considered proceeding with the demolition as planned following the fire Tuesday, but they didn't want to run out of time and risk leaving behind any debris that may tempt someone to light a bonfire.

They will instead tear down the home Wednesday.

"They wanted to do it in one day and get it all cleaned up," Jolley said. "They were working hard to get that ready to go and, unfortunately, somebody beat them to it today. They're committed to taking it down and getting rid of it so they cannot worry about it anymore."

Contributing: Emiley Morgan

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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