A man was trying to burn a spider, but he sparked a Utah fire instead, officials say


By Dennis Romero

A Utah wildfire that erupted amid summer heat and relatively dry conditions may have been started by a man trying to burn a spider with a lighter, authorities said.

The Springville Fire started about 5 p.m. Monday and consumed 60 acres of federal land east of Springville, part of the Provo metropolitan area, before state fire officials declared Tuesday that it was 90 percent contained.

On Tuesday, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said it arrested Cory Allan Martin, 26, of nearby Draper, on suspicion of starring the fire, possessing marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Firefighters battle a wildfire from the ground as a helicopter drops water above them in Springville, Utah, on Monday.Kristin Murphy / The Deseret News via AP

Sheriff’s officials said firefighters encountered the man on a mountain slope. He told them he started the blaze, and they walked him to deputies, they said.

“Cory stated he found a spider on the mountain and was attempting to burn the spider with a lighter,” according to a sheriff’s affidavit filed to support the arrest.

“When he attempted to burn the spider, the surrounding brush ignited and the fire began spreading very rapidly,” the document stated.

Martin was placed under arrest, and his belongings were searched, sheriff’s officials said. A jar of marijuana and drug paraphernalia was found, they alleged in the affidavit.

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Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the suspect didn’t appear to be under the influence of marijuana when he spoke to deputies, two of whom separately received the same story.

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“There was no indication Mr. Martin was heavily under the influence of drugs,” he said by email. “He was quiet and not very talkative, but that is not unusual when one finds they are the focus of a criminal investigation.”

The man was jailed but released sometime Tuesday. Bail had been set at $2,000. It wasn’t clear if Martin had a lawyer for the case. A public defender’s association in the area did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sheriff’s officials said the fire started near the bottom of the mountain mentioned in the affidavit and quickly burned its way to the top, prompting multiple fire agencies and air units to respond.

State fire officials said their battle was aided by rain overnight that reduced the blaze’s interior heat.

The sheriff’s office said it forwarded its case against Martin to the Utah County Attorney’s Office, which will ultimately decide if he will be charged.