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Police car, apartment complex burned in latest Utah Co fires

OREM — An apartment complex under construction and a Provo police car both burned within 15 minutes of each other early Thursday.

Investigators were still trying to determine Thursday if both fires were related, but were calling both incidents "suspicious."

The fires were the latest in a series of incidents believed to be arson-related that have plagued the Provo and Orem area since last spring.

About 2:45 a.m. a marked Provo police patrol car in the area of 400 South and west of State Street, that was parked on the street in front of the officer's house, caught fire. The fire started in the engine compartment and was contained to that area, according to Orem police.

About 15 minutes later, at 420 S. State, a large fire was reported at an apartment complex under construction. The complex was destroyed as well as a vacant building nearby. Total damage was estimated at $1.5 million, according to the Orem Fire Department.

Firefighters were able to protect occupied businesses nearby. No injuries were reported. At one point, about 30 firefighters from Orem and Provo were working the incident.

A power pole also caught fire. Power was shut off for the protection of firefighters as they battled the inferno. At one point, approximately 5,000 residents in the area were without power.

Orem Fire Battalion Chief Ryan Peterson said investigators were working to determine whether the two fires were linked to each other and whether they could be linked to a series of suspicious fires in the area over the past few months.

In a similar incident on Dec. 19, Orem firefighters were working a small fire at a gas station pump that was also suspicious in nature, when they noticed a glow coming from the area of 875 N. State. They arrived to find an apartment complex under construction in flames. The two-alarm fire caused an estimated $1 million damage.

In Provo, there was a string of at least 10 arson-related fires in April that destroyed several abandoned homes and vehicles. Provo city offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam