Tenant accused of arson at Salt Lake apartment

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Witnesses say a man torched his own apartment Sunday night, and then watched as it burned. The fire forced 12 people out of their homes while firefighters doused the flames.

It happened at Edison Place apartments at 1300 S. Edison St.

One neighbor, Teara Grist, says she watched as 45-year-old James Brinton started a couch on fire inside his apartment around 9:30 Sunday night.

Grist says she called police moments before the fire started because Brinton had thrown a chair though his sliding glass door and was threatening her. She says she was standing outside waiting for police when she looked up at her neighbor's window and saw him start the fire.

"We heard the lighter and then saw the flame," she said. "He stepped back and all the lights were off. He walked out with his shoes in his hands and sat down right there smiling. (He) walked right past us smiling. I looked up and saw the huge flame."

Grist says when police arrived, Brinton walked up to them and told them he started the fire. He was placed in the back seat of a police car while firefighters evacuated the building and put out the flames.

The fire destroyed one apartment and severely damaged two others.

Some neighbors say they weren't surprised something like this happened. They say Brinton would extinguish cigarettes on his carpet.

William Gongora, the building maintenance manager, said, "I always say he is going to catch the place on fire, and he did. It's just a matter of time."

Grist said, "I'm livid. I'm livid about it. He knows there are kids there. That's the biggest deal to me. You don't do that!"

Brinton was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on a first degree felony charge of aggravated arson.

A firefighter burned his hand while working on the fire, but his injury is not serious.

E-mail: spark@ksl.com


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