Orem police believe construction fires are being set by a serial arsonist

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Around 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning the Sun Canyon Villas construction project, which is just south of Midtown 360 between State Street and Orem Boulevard, was set on fire. (Photo by Matt Bennett)

Around 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning the Sun Canyon Villas construction project, which is just south of Midtown 360 between State Street and Orem Boulevard, was set on fire. (Photo by Matt Bennett)

OREM — Orem police believe they have a serial arsonist setting fires to construction sites after a fire was set on the Thursday morning at Sun Canyon Villas and a fire on State St. in early December.

“What we’ve done as a city is we’ve got together and realized what a big deal this is and how we can catch this guy,” said Lt. Craig Martinez with the Orem Police Department. “We’ve put together a task force of state, local and federal officials so we can combine all of our resources to make sure we get this guy before it happens again — so it’s at the top of our priority list.”

Martinez said both fires used the same method of operation where the arsonist set small distraction fires before setting larger construction sites on fire. In the Sun Canyon Villas case, the arsonist set a Orem police car on fire first.

“I think it was a crime opportunity that he saw,” Martinez said. “He past a Provo police car on his way to the construction site, and that’s when he decided he could do that (as a distraction).”

[pullquote]”Firefighters, of course, are willing to risk their lives to save life and property, but when that is an intentionally set fire, that creates difficult challenges for us from a risk management perspective.” —Ryan Peterson, Orem Fire Department Battalion Chief[/pullquote]

Orem police have a few active leads on who the arsonist could be, but they don’t know whether it is one or more individuals setting the fires.

“It’s an emotional challenge for our firefighters,” said Ryan Peterson, battalion chief for the Orem Fire Department. “Fortunately, through our training they are able to work with that. Our concern is with intentional fires is the life safety hazard. Firefighters, of course, are willing to risk their lives to save life and property, but when that is an intentionally set fire, that creates difficult challenges for us from a risk management perspective.”

With these fires, the Orem police are increasing its patrol in construction areas. The fire department will also be increasing their visual presence around town.

The police and fire department are working with project managers in the area as well as contractors today to give them pointers on how to protect their construction projects, which will include a suggestion to increase their personal security.

Anyone who sees suspicious behavior or has any information on the fires should call the Orem police at (801) 229-7070.

Watch more from the Orem fire press conference below.

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Rebecca Lane

While her first language is sarcasm, Rebecca dabbles in English and Russian to achieve her lifelong dream of being a journalist. A BYU sports fan, reading enthusiast and wannabe world traveler, Rebecca is a Colorado transplant that is convinced Colorado's mountains are much larger than the many Utah County peaks. Rebecca manages UtahValley360.com for Bennett Communications. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccalane.

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