Reckless burning vs Arson in Utah

Authorities are searching for information on the persons responsible for causing the wildfires that are tearing through Utah presently, but will those responsibility end up facing reckless burning or arson charges? What is the difference?

6,000 acres and counting

Photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

The skies of southern and northeastern Utah are full of smoke as wildfires burn through nearly 6,000 acres of land. The Mackshaft fire that is 25% contained and has already consumed 2,453 acres of land is located southeast of Vernal near the city of Bonanza. The cause of that fire is still under investigation according to Utahfireinfo.gov. The Brian Head Fire located in very close proximity to the resort town of Brian Head, Utah east of Cedar City has been determined to be human caused. That fire has burned 2,761 acres of land so far and is being further fueled by hot, dry winds. The Brian Head Fire is currently at only 15% containment.

Fire rules and restrictions

With wildfire season upon us, strict rules are in place regarding when and where fires are permitted. Wildfires are more common during the hot, dry months of summer and by limiting the number of human caused fires during this time, fire officials can focus their energy and resources on naturally caused fires instead. When a human caused fire does occur, those individuals responsible may be expected to reimburse the state for the costs associated with controlling and extinguishing the fire. Additionally, they may face criminal charges for either reckless burning or arson. This depends on many factors including whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional and the cost of the total damage.

Reckless burning

Reckless Burning vs Arson

Photo by: Denis Dervisevic

Utah Code 76-6-104 discusses reckless burning and the penalties associated with charges. It states:

“(1) A person is guilty of reckless burning if the person:
(a) recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion which endangers human life;
(b) having started a fire, whether recklessly or not, and knowing that it is spreading and will endanger the life or property of another, either fails to take reasonable measures to put out or control the fire or fails to give a prompt fire alarm;
(c) builds or maintains a fire without taking reasonable steps to remove all flammable materials surrounding the site of the fire as necessary to prevent the fire’s spread or escape; or
(d) damages the property of another by reckless use of fire or causing an explosion.
(2)
(a) A violation of Subsection (1)(a) or (b) is a class A misdemeanor.
(b) A violation of Subsection (1)(c) is a class B misdemeanor.
(c) A violation of Subsection (1)(d) is:
(i) a class A misdemeanor if damage to property is or exceeds $1,500 in value;
(ii) a class B misdemeanor if the damage to property is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500 in value; and
(iii) a class C misdemeanor if the damage to property is or exceeds $150 but is less than $500 in value.
(d) Any other violation under Subsection (1)(d) is an infraction.

Arson

Arson charges are much more severe than reckless burning as it involves intent or criminal activity leading up to the event. Arson charges usually arise when someone sets fire to the property of another such as a home or vehicle, however wildfires that are started intentionally have the potential to cause structural damage as well. According to Utah Code 76-6-102:
“(1) A person is guilty of arson if, under circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson, the
person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages:
(a) any property with intention of defrauding an insurer; or
(b) the property of another.
Depending on value of the damage and whether or not injuries occurred as a result of the violation, charges for arson can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony.

Criminal Defense

Anyone facing charges for accidentally starting a fire (reckless burning) or intentionally starting a fire (arson) should immediately seek counsel with a reputable criminal defense attorney.

First Degree Aggravated Arson for Setting Own Apartment on Fire

A Utah man is facing charges for first degree aggravated arson as well as attempted murder for setting his own apartment on fire.

Paranoia unhinged

First Degree Aggravated Arson

Photo by: Denis Dervisevic

Kyle Stinson of West Valley City started a fire in his apartment earlier this month in what was found to be a disturbed and irrational attempt to protect himself from a neighbor. Police determined that Stinson’s neighbor posed no threat whatsoever. Stinson however was found to be the one causing danger as he started a fire in an occupied building and also tried to tie the door of his neighbor shut so they could not escape the apartment complex. Stinson faces charges of first degree aggravated arson and attempted murder.

First degree aggravated arson

Even though the only part of the building damaged was Stinson’s own apartment, Utah Code 76-6-103 states “A person is guilty of aggravated arson if by means of fire or explosives he intentionally and unlawfully damages:

a) A habitable structure; or

b) Any structure or vehicle when any person not a participant in the offense is in the structure or vehicle.”

Additionally, since he tried to tie his neighbor’s door closed after he set his apartment on fire, he is also facing attempted murder. Both charges that Stinson is facing are first degree felonies, each with possible prison terms of five years to life in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Questionable mental health

Photo by: Mike H

Photo by: Mike H

Since police were not able to find any justification to Stinson’s fears of being harmed by his neighbor, Stinson’s mental health should be questioned. Paranoia to the degree that Stinson’s was suffering from could be caused from drug use, but may have also resulted from an unchecked mental illness. Unfortunately, instead of seeking help for his apparent neurotic disorder or even requesting aid from law enforcement when he thought he was in danger, Stinson took matters into his own hands and now could spend the rest of his life in jail. For those who are facing charges such as first degree aggravated arson or other serious felonies and feel that they were not in their right state of mind during the offense, it is recommended to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Estranged Ex-Husband Facing Six Counts of Vehicle Arson in Utah

An estranged ex-husband, who allegedly lit his former wife’s car on fire along with multiple others throughout Iron County Utah, is facing a total of six counts of vehicle arson.

Not the right way to get her attention

Photo by: Billie Grace Ward

Photo by: Billie Grace Ward

23 year old Issac Wall of Beaver Utah was arrested for multiple counts of vehicle arson after witnesses described a man fitting his description fleeing the scene of the first vehicle was torched. The person living at that Cedar City home just so happened to be Wall’s ex-wife.

Covering his tracks

In what some are describing as a failed attempt to cover his tracks, Wall left his ex-wife’s car on flames and then went to three random locations throughout the area and ignited an additional five vehicles on fire. Four of the vehicles ended up being a complete loss while the other two had minor damage.

Vehicle arson

Vehicle Arson

Photo by: perthhdproductions

Utah Code 76-6-102 states “A person is guilty of arson if, under circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson [where a home or habited vehicle or building is involved], the person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages:

a) Any property with intention of defrauding an insurer; or
b) The property of another.”

Six second degree felonies

The charges for arson depend on the value of the property damaged and whether or not anyone was, or could have been hurt. Fortunately, no one was injured in the any of the instances of vehicle arson that Wall was supposedly responsible for. Yet due to the extensive damage and value of the automobiles involved in the vehicle arson, Wall is facing six second degree felonies; each with a possible prison sentence of one to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Divorce counseling

Photo by: Joe Houghton

Photo by: Joe Houghton

While numerous married couples will attempt counseling at a way of reconciling their relationship, rarely is counseling ever suggested for divorced couples unless children are involved. Divorce therapists and counseling centers are available however, and are often free through religious affiliations or covered by many health insurance companies. For those struggling with the aftermath of a divorce, it is recommended to speak to someone to sort out any lingering issues. For those who have made poor choices following a divorce, such as Issac Wall and his six counts of vehicle arson, it is imperative to seek a criminal defense attorney immediately.