An emergency dental appointment in the middle of the night may have saved an entire office building, and several adjacent buildings, from being blown up and destroyed in a fire.
"We would have just had a catastrophe over there, no question about it," said Park City Police Capt. Rick Ryan.
Even more bizarre is the man police arrested in connection with the attempted bombing is a chiropractor who had a respected practice in the same building, 1901 Prospector Ave.
Matthew Zarit, 36, was arrested Monday evening at his home in Holladay and booked into the Summit County Jail for investigation of attempted arson and possession of an incendiary device. State prosecutors were also looking Friday at a possible insurance fraud charge, and the ATF was considering possible federal charges.
Investigators say Zarit was going to blow up his office and all the others in his building to collect the insurance money, said Ryan.
Zarit used lessons he learned from taking chemistry classes and information he picked up off the Internet to mix gasoline with sodium hydroxide, Ryan said.
"What that does with sodium hydroxide is when the fire starts and you put water on it, it increases the heat of that fire," he said. "It has its own oxygen source. It's real difficult to extinguish that fire."
Zarit's plan was reportedly to blow up the building early on the morning of June 2, police said. What he wasn't expecting, however, was a dentist going into the office that morning to meet a patient for an emergency procedure, Ryan said.
The dentist got into the office at about 12:30 a.m. When he finished about 1 a.m. and went back into the hallway, he saw five gallons of gasoline in different containers, fuses, road flares and a timer, Ryan said. The dentist immediately called 911.
Detectives believe Zarit had dropped off those materials and then left to get something else, not knowing the dentist was inside, Ryan said. By the time Zarit returned, police had already been called and were at the building. They believe when Zarit came back, he saw the police cars, turned around and went home.
A bomb squad from Salt Lake County and the Park City Fire Department responded to the office. After rendering the explosive materials in the hallway safe, they conducted a room-to-room search of the rest of the building. In Zarit's office, they found more bottles containing the same gasoline mixture, Ryan said.
By 6 a.m., investigators went to Zarit's Holladay home to take him back to Park City to be interviewed. After conducting the interview, he was placed under arrest.
"He said he was going to burn the building down for the purpose of collecting insurance money to take care of some financial problems he was having," Ryan said.
There are eight offices in the Zarit's building.
"Had the fire gone has planned, it would have destroyed several buildings," Ryan said. "The immediate flash could have been real significant ... If he had done it immediately and not taken a break, we really could have had further problems."
If he had set the fire immediately, the dentist and his patient would not have survived, he said. If the fire had spread and picked up steam, it could have spread to nearby condos and even a hotel, Ryan said.
A check of state professional licensing records shows Zarit has had an active chiropracticing license since 1999.