Syracuse family shares message after cameras capture suspected yard arsonist

Feb 2, 2022, 10:06 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:50 pm

SYRACUSE, Utah — Syracuse police are on the lookout for an alleged arsonist, and the family he targeted is speaking out about what they experienced when part of their yard caught fire suddenly Saturday night.

The whole ordeal was captured on camera from a neighbor’s security system.

The fire first ignites just before 9 p.m. Saturday on 1950 South near 1275 West in Syracuse. Not a couple of minutes after flames light up the dark street, a car stops and a group of teens hopped out.

They jump into action, with one calling 911 while others frantically bang on the front door of Bryce Johnson’s home to alert him.

One is heard on security footage yelling out, “You have a hose?”

Johnson didn’t have time to think, only to act.

“I had bare feet on, so I go running out the door, running on the ice, running through the snow,” Johnson recounted. “And right next to my truck, there were like 8-foot high flames and our entire bush on fire.”

The flames and smoke are seen on surveillance jumping in the air. Johnson can be seen running to another part of his yard to scoop up snow to help put the blaze out.

The teens are heard guessing how the fire started. Johnson thought maybe someone threw a cigarette out a car window. He figured it was all an accident until he watched his neighbor’s surveillance footage back.

“It was very intentional,” he said, of what he saw on the footage. “Someone actually walked up and lit the bush on fire, and that moment we knew it was something more serious.”

Other cameras in the neighborhood picked up the person, who police think is likely a male teen, walking east on 1950 South along the sidewalk before starting the fire in Johnson’s yard.

He quickly runs east after appearing to ignite the blaze.

“It is very strange,” said detective Erin Behm with Syracuse Police Department. “I don’t know if it’s boredom, or the victims have absolutely no reason as to why someone would want to do this to their bush.”

Even if the damage ended up being contained to the large grasses and a sprinkler head, for police and Johnson, it’s about more than lighting a bush on fire.

“If something was severely damaged, then where would we be?” Behm questioned. She’s hoping to get even more surveillance footage from anyone living east of 1275 West along 1950 South.

She’s also hoping to find and speak to this person, saying they could be cited for damaging property.

Johnson wonders how bad the blaze could have gotten, had the car of teens not driven by and alerted him so quickly.

“It could have hurt us, it could have burnt our entire house down,” he said. “But it’s all what could have happened. We caught it in time. It didn’t happen, thank goodness — but it could have.”

He’s feeling thankful and lucky for the teens who stopped to help, and for the snow still piled on his north-facing lawn that he used to put the fire out.

But Johnson is hoping this doesn’t happen again, to anyone else.

“When something like this happens, that is threatening my family’s safety,” he said, adding, “and there’s just no words for it.”

Anyone with footage or who may know or recognize the person who started the fire should call the Syracuse Police Department at 801-825-4400.

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Syracuse family shares message after cameras capture suspected yard arsonist