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'There's about to be a fire,' man yelled before setting apartment complex on fire

Murray firefighters clean up following a fire at the Stillwater Apartments near 5500 South and Vine Street in Murray on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Dozens of people were forced from their homes when fire broke out at the apartment complex early Thursday morning. Police have arrested a suspected arsonist, Forrest Xavier Wilkinson, who is believed to have set the fire.

Murray firefighters clean up following a fire at the Stillwater Apartments near 5500 South and Vine Street in Murray on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Dozens of people were forced from their homes when fire broke out at the apartment complex early Thursday morning. Police have arrested a suspected arsonist, Forrest Xavier Wilkinson, who is believed to have set the fire. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)



MURRAY — A man who said there was going to be a fire and then laughed before igniting a fire that heavily damaged an apartment complex in Murray, according to police, has been arrested.

Forrest Xavier Wilkinson, 27, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Thursday for investigation of aggravated arson in connection with the large fire at the Stillwater Apartments, 5560 S. Vine Street. A "substantial section" of the building where the fire started is a "complete loss," according to a police booking affidavit.

The fire was reported just after 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Wilkinson was spotted by a witness on a third floor balcony. He told the witness, "There's about to be a fire," and then laughed, the affidavit states.

Shortly after, Wilkinson ran down the stairs yelling "fire" and "the witness then saw the apartment engulf in flames," according to the affidavit.

When police arrived at the apartment complex, Wilkinson was still there.

"He began making excited utterances stating that he had to tell the truth and that he was being followed by police so he had to light his apartment on fire because he did not know what else to do," the affidavit states.

Wilkinson then claimed that he "sprayed lighter fluid all over his apartment and lit it on fire with a piece of paper," according to the affidavit.

An accelerant detection K-9 was brought to the scene and indicated that Wilkinson had an accelerant on both of his shoes. Wilkinson was convicted of assault tied to domestic violence charges in 2015 and again in 2017, according to Utah court records.

Early estimates by the fire department placed total damages at about $500,000. No serious injuries were reported.

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