Utah wildfire updates: Man arrested, accused of negligently sparking 4,000-acre Jacob City Fire

He faces charges of reckless burning and reckless endangerment.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Helicopters work on the Jacob City Fire outside Stockton, Tooele County, Monday, July 11, 2022.

Stockton police arrested a man Tuesday whose negligence they say started the Jacob City Fire, which has burned over 4,000 acres since it first sparked Saturday.

Authorities issued a fire prevention order Wednesday that restricted access to public lands in the vicinity of the blaze west of Stockton, which is still burning at 19% containment.

The man was arrested under suspicion of reckless burning and reckless endangerment, police said in a news release. On Saturday, the man reported to police that his generator caught fire and quickly spread to nearby trees. But investigators found evidence at the scene that conflicted with the man’s initial statements.

In an interview with police Tuesday, the man said he plugged a circular saw into his generator, which he had recently purchased refurbished. The saw’s cord had been cut, spliced and taped back together, officials said in the release.

The saw would heat up during use so, on Saturday, the man set it down on the back of an RV next to a sealed gas canister as outside temperatures reached about 103 degrees. The man then plugged the RV into the generator and went inside, but came outside 10 minutes later after hearing a noise.

Outside, he found the top of the generator on fire, as well as surrounding trees, according to the release.

When the man attempted to extinguish the fire, he tossed burning sage and embers under the RV — where another gas canister was located, which ignited and began burning the RV. He then called 911.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks in front of the Jacob City Fire outside Stockton in Tooele County on Monday, July 11, 2022. “You will be held responsible if you start a fire,” Cox said during the news conference.

“Negligence does not release a party from responsibility and consequences of an incident that occurs due to his/her actions,” Stockton police said in a statement. “Members of the public need to be aware of current conditions while recreating on public lands. Special precautions should be taken to prevent wildfires from occurring.”

The fire prevention order issued Wednesday will remain in effect until the Jacob City Fire is controlled or authorities rescind the order. It restricts public access, recreation and unnecessary traffic near the blaze.

Four other people were arrested Monday after they were accused of starting the Halfway Hill Fire in Millard County, which also ignited Saturday. Officials said the fire started from an unattended campfire, which the four campers had attempted to extinguish.

The Halfway Hill Fire has burned more than 10,000 acres so far and was 5% contained as of last report.

— Tribune staff writer Anastasia Hufham contributed to this report.