Ex-Trooper, Fire Chief Charged With Starting Second Wildfire

SALT LAKE CITY — A former Utah Highway Patrol trooper and fire chief already accused of purposely starting a forest fire has been indicted on a new charge of intentionally sparking a separate blaze on federal land.

A grand jury Wednesday decided there was enough evidence to charge Rex Richard Olsen, 37, with setting brush or grass on fire “willfully and without authority” on Bureau of Land Management land.

The charge stems from a May 30 blaze that torched 900 acres and briefly closed a stretch of state Route 40 in eastern Utah.

State prosecutors say Olsen, previously the fire chief of Neola in Duchesne County, also is responsible for sparking a fire nearby June 9. The Utah Attorney General’s Office charged him Aug. 8 with arson, a second-degree felony, and violating wildfire prevention restrictions, a misdemeanor.

Olsen told investigators “he did so because he wanted to feel the excitement of it,” according to a probable cause statement. The case is pending.

UHP fired Olsen on July 1 after conducting its own investigation.

On June 9, the 1,000-acre fire forced temporary evacuations of 150 homes and briefly shut down state Route 121 in Uintah County.

If convicted in federal court, Olsen could receive a sentence of up to five years in prison.

For the state felony charge, he faces 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Source: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865690449/Ex-trooper-fire-chief-charged-with-starting-second-wildfire.html