A man police say was writing a novel about fire has been arrested and is being questioned in connection with a two-year string of arsons stretching from Salt Lake County to Sanpete County, the Utah County sheriff's office said Sunday.
Clark G. Reynolds, 26, Cedar Hills, Utah County, was booked into the Utah County Jail on a probation violation Saturday night. Reynolds is on probation for attempted theft.Investigators questioned him about an unspecified number of hay, barn and wild-land fires in at least four counties. Since April 22, 26 blazes have damaged farmers' property from Sandy to Ephriam. No charges have been filed yet in connection with the arsons.
Sheriff's Lt. Frank Wall said the man, a Lehi native, became a prime suspect following two hay fires in Riverton May 8. The man had been under 24-hour surveillance for about 10 days, Wall said. There have been no hay or barn fires since May 8.
Wall estimated the blazes have caused at least $1 million in damage since 1989.
"The farmers are the ones that got hit the hardest," said Brent Halladay, state chief deputy fire marshal. Several of the fires destroyed up to 100 tons of hay. Fires also scorched Bureau of Land Management property and Uinta National Forest land.
Investigators seized programmable radios and scanners, maps, photos and slides of blazes, and videotapes and literature on fire and firefighting. At various fire scenes, they found bundles of unburned wooden matches taped to unlit cigarettes, said Utah County Fire Marshal Tom Wroe.
"It was a very difficult investigation because of the radio equipment," Wall said.
Reynolds, who police say was a seasonal wild-land firefighter, had radios that allowed him to monitor and communicate on law enforcement frequencies statewide, Wall said. The radio appears to be stolen from the Forest Service.
Wroe said the radio was used to report fires investigators believe were started by the caller. The suspect was also on the scene of many of the blazes, the fire marshal said.
"Part of the excitement is to hear the sirens and see the fire engines," Halladay said.
The man police suspect of arson had engulfed himself in fire science, but officials aren't sure why the blazes were set.
Halladay said the evidence gathered in the case will be "compared to every unsolved fire in the past year."
Reynolds passed out while investigators were taking him into custody Saturday. He was transported by ambulance to American Fork Hospital for an examination before being taken to the jail.