Former UHP trooper sentenced for starting 1,000-acre wildfire

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A former Utah Highway Patrol trooper was sentenced to jail earlier this week for starting a wildfire in Uintah County last summer.

Rex Richard Olsen, who pleaded guilty to starting the June 2017 Maeser Highway Fire, was sentenced in 8th District Court Tuesday on a second-degree felony arson charge. An accompanying one-to-15 year prison sentence was suspended by the court in favor of a 180-day stint in the Uintah County Jail and 36 months probation, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Prosecutors are also seeking over $480,000 in restitution to cover damage caused by the fire, as well as the cost of fire suppression. A restitution hearing is set for June 27.

The Maeser Highway Fire was ignited June 9, 2017, and burned around 1,000 acres before being extinguished by firefighters.

At the time he set the fire, Olsen was on duty as a UHP trooper. The charges came after an investigation by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

According to court records, a state investigator determined the fire was ignited by “a delayed ignition device constructed to ignite a fire” using a cigarette like a “timed fuse.”

Evidence gathered during the investigation put Olsen in the area of the fire. Surveillance footage from a local gas station obtained by the investigator also showed Olsen purchasing the type of cigarette used to start the fire.

During an interview with the investigator, Olsen said he intentionally started the fire because he wanted to “feel the excitement of it.”

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Olsen also started a similar fire on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in Uintah County in June 2017. For that, he pleaded guilty to one count of underbrush and grass set afire, a class D felony, in the U.S. District Court for Utah.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Real Life April 21, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Could have been 15 years, and he got 180 days? Hmmmmmm.

  • SSTEED April 21, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Did you guys hold your boy to account? If you did I want to give you all a big hug and say welcome to the community. Please treat it like it’s your home, and not like its a source of income. On the other hand, the cynic in me is a bit concerned that he will be right back to work for the UHP once this blows over.

  • Larry April 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Think about this for a moment…About the ways our Laws on Guns work. He is now a convicted Felon. So (thankfully) he will not be able to re-up as a cop in the future. Now think about this; He will not be able to legally purchase or possess a firearm after he gets out of a very short stint in jail (Blue Privilege?) since he is a convicted felon…But he, A Convicted Arsonist… will be able without any restrictions… be able to purchase and possess Matches and Cigarettes….!

    • SSTEED April 22, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      You make a good point, and evidently “blue privilege” includes not having your face plastered on the news. Hint hint STG News.

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