Dave Joseph has spent the last week and a half wondering why his longtime friend didn't run.
James T. Martin was staying on a lot owned by Joseph in Sanpete County. As the Wood Hollow Fire raged through the area, it killed Martin, 60. While the 2012 wildfire season has burned perhaps hundreds of thousands of acres in Utah, Martin is so far the only person killed.
"I honestly don't know what the hell he was thinking," Joseph said Sunday. "My guess is he didn't think it would come up there."
The Sanpete County Sheriff's Office has not disclosed the identity of the body found June 26 inside a burned car.
But Joseph, who spoke first with the Sanpete Messenger last week, and Martin's sister, who also spoke with The Tribune on Sunday, are certain it was Martin. They said Martin's body was found inside his Geo Tracker on Joseph's property.
Martin, who went by "Jim," never married or had children, Joseph said. He owned an alarm company in Salt Lake County called JM Security Systems but lived in a camping trailer he parked at RV parks and campgrounds.
Joseph said he and Martin were classmates at Granite High School in South Salt Lake and remained friends over the years. Joseph resides in Herriman but bought a 20-acre lot in the Elk Ridge Ranches subdivision near the town of Indianola years ago.
Joseph said he once joked to Martin that he could move his trailer down to the lot and watch it for the summer. A few weeks ago, Martin took Joseph up on it.
"He was going to stay down there for the summer," Joseph said. "He just wanted to get out of the city."
The lot had a sewer connection but no buildings.
The Wood Hollow Fire ignited June 23 near Fountain Green, possibly because someone stole a ground wire from a transformer. Joseph said he and Martin were connecting the septic system to Martin's trailer that day and could see the fire burning about 12 miles away.
"I just looked at him and said, 'Man, I hope it don't come this way, Jim.' And he said, 'Ah, I don't think it will,' " Joseph recalled.
Joseph left for Herriman about 9 that night. He was at the gate to his property talking to a neighbor when Martin thanked him for the help and said goodbye. Joseph said OK, and those were their last words to each other.
Joseph said a sheriff's deputy has since told him a Sanpete County search-and-rescue team told Martin the next night he needed to evacuate but Martin refused, saying he had an escape route.
Martin's sister called and spoke with him on June 25. Powerful winds pushed the Wood Hollow Fire later that day. It appears Martin died between that phone call and the morning of June 26, when a Sanpete County search and rescue team assessing fire damage found the body in his Tracker.
The Tracker was parked next to the trailer, Joseph said. Joseph said the sheriff's deputy told him Martin's keys were still on his person. Joseph said he wonders if Martin fled too late, got burned on his way to the Tracker and never started the car.
Joseph said Martin's family is trying to organize a memorial service, possibly for this weekend.
"He didn't realize what was coming," Joseph said. "That's all I can figure."