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Utah man admits causing fire that destroyed 24 apartments

A Layton man admitted Tuesday to causing a large apartment complex fire in July.
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LAYTON — A Layton man admitted Tuesday to causing a large apartment complex fire in July.

Tuesday was supposed to be an initial appearance in court for Angel David Colebrook, 20, who was charged in 2nd District Court with reckless burning and reckless endangerment, both class A misdemeanors. Colebrook pleaded guilty to the reckless burning charge and in exchange for his plea, the reckless endangerment charge was dismissed.

On July 22, a large fire broke out at the Layton Meadows Apartments, 586 W. 1425 North. A building containing 24 units — 23 of which were being rented — was a total loss, according to fire officials. Five tenants suffered minor injuries, including a person who jumped from a second-story balcony.

Investigators determined the fire started in Colebrook’s ground floor apartment where flames were shooting out the window.

When Colebrook was arrested, a police affidavit said he was playing with a lighter and incense candle when gasoline that had spilled on his floor ignited.

But according to a pair of search warrants affidavits filed by Layton police, Colebrook told two ambulance crew members “that he was cooking when the fire started and when he left the residence, he spilled a can of gasoline, which was next to his couch and he tried to put the fire out, but wasn’t able to. This information regarding the gasoline can spilling is contrary to what was written in his witness statement and wasn’t mentioned.”

A woman who also lived in the apartment told police that when she arrived home, Colebrook was sleeping, and “as soon as she walked into the apartment, she smelled what she described as propane gas,” the warrants state. When the woman questioned Colebrook about the smell, he “didn’t remember if he closed the tank, but thought he had.”

The investigation then focused on whether the spilling of gasoline was an accident. Colebrook told police he was holding onto the gasoline for a friend who was afraid of it being stolen, even though storing gas inside the apartment was against the complex’s rules.

Among the items investigators seized from the house was a piece of “carpet melted to a gas can,” the warrant states.

Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.