Authorities have cited a suspected transient in connection with an early Wednesday morning fire that destroyed a vacant west Salt Lake City home.
Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman Jasen Asay said the suspect allegedly was seen leaving the boarded-up home at 359 N. 700 West shortly before flames were spotted inside at 1:37 a.m.
Firefighters arrived at the scene within four minutes of a 911 call, but their efforts to douse the flames initially were hampered by trees that blocked access to their ladders. Also, crews had to be quickly pulled out of the structure when its flooring began to collapse into the basement, Asay said.
In all, 40 firefighters battled the blaze. One firefighter was injured when his hand was smashed while trying to pry boards from a window to gain access. He was treated at a local hospital and released, Asay said.
The blaze was initially spotted by a security guard as he drove past on nearby Interstate 15. He called 911 and then drove to the fire scene, where he purportedly saw the suspect leaving the house. The suspect dropped some clothing and papers as he fled, and when he returned to the scene later Wednesday morning was taken into custody by fire investigators, Asay said.
"He was cited for reckless burning and released. He will have to pay a fine and will appear in court at a later date," Asay said, adding that investigators found evidence that indicated the man had been living in the house. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.