- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A 27-year-old Utah man told police he sparked a wildfire that forced evacuations and contaminated the water supply in his town, arrest documents show.

Timothy West on Wednesday said he rode his ATV near a baseball field in Stockton, where he lit matches.

Officers booked West into Tooele County Jail on Wednesday night on suspicion of arson, criminal mischief and obstructing justice. He was the second person to call police and report the fire, the documents show. Neighbors reportedly saw him leave the area of the initial fire on a red ATV on Wednesday afternoon.

West was a volunteer firefighter for the town several years ago, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry told The Salt Lake Tribune.

At midday Thursday, crews contained the wildfire that sent embers across Main Street, threatened homes in the northern Utah town of 600.

Officials warned Stockton residents to avoid using water until they finish running tests on samples taken Wednesday night, said Bucky Whitehouse, emergency manager for Tooele County. Crews have set up thousand-gallon tanks of drinking water at three stations in town, and workers are handing out water bottles at a fire station. Some residents have wells and are sharing their supply with others.

The damage is also forced the evacuations of eight homes, though residents were expected to return to those houses by Thursday evening.

The blaze damaged the exterior of three of those houses on Wednesday. It also churned through the lid on a water tower and burnt a handful of outlying sheds. The threat died Thursday about midday after crews announced they had confined the 179 acre-fire.

“Things are looking really good,” said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Teresa Rigby.

Town officials Thursday had no further details on how the fire began or why the alleged arsonist may have started it. In 2010, West pleaded guilty to arson in Tooele County.

Phone calls seeking an attorney for West were not immediately returned by the Tooele County Sheriff’s office Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, the blaze came within yards of a neighborhood and of Main Street.

Stockton Mayor Mark Whitney says shelters Wednesday night went up in Tooele and Stockton, but displaced families elected to stay with friends and family instead.

“The community’s kind of pulled together,” Rigby said, “and they’re helping each other out like they typically do.”

An investigation continues into the cause of the fire.


Associated Press writer Michelle Price contributed to this report.

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