Salt Lake firefighters respond to a fire at an office building in Sugarhouse on Sunday, June 13, 2021. A man has been arrested and accused of intentionally starting the fire that caused $2 million in damage. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — Fire investigators have arrested a man who they say intentionally started a fire that destroyed an office building in Sugarhouse and caused approximately $2 million in damage.
Alex Kentish Tuita, 37, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Tuesday for investigation of three counts of aggravated arson.
Tuita is accused of starting a fire that destroyed a multiunit office building at 1104 E. Ashton Ave. on Sunday about 2 a.m. According to one Facebook post, 33 small business owners were displaced by the fire. The fire also spread to a nearby home at 1100 E. Ashton Ave.
Tuita poured gasoline onto the wall of the office building and then ignited the vapors using a disposable barbeque stick lighter, according to a booking affidavit.
“The fire completely destroyed the office building and the neighboring single-family residential home, and the fire damaged a residential apartment building located at 1124 E. Ashton Ave.,” the affidavit states. “(His) actions resulted in an estimated $2 million property loss and endangered the lives of at least six tenants who were present in the neighboring apartment building.”
Tuita acknowledged seeing lights on in the apartment building, but “he was not concerned about the welfare of the occupants,” fire investigators wrote in the affidavit.
The investigators say Tuita provided a “detailed” confession after he was taken into custody.
Tuita’s presence at the office building constituted a violation of a stalking injunction that a woman who is a tenant had against him, according to the affidavit.
A woman filed for a civil stalking injunction against Tuita on Thursday in 3rd District Court, according to court records. It was not immediately clear if it was the same injunction mentioned in the affidavit. But among the items listed as evidence in the case are a police report, a cease and desist letter and text messages. The items submitted as evidence were sealed.