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Stockton • An arson suspect who once was a volunteer firefighter for the city was in police custody Thursday, accused of starting a brush fire that damaged multiple homes and contaminated Stockton's water supply when it destroyed the town's water tank.
Timothy Devone West, 27, of Stockton, was arrested Wednesday night. Fire officials said he was cooperating with investigators.
West who has two prior arson convictions was a volunteer firefighter for the Stockton Fire Department until several years ago, said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
West comes from a family of firefighters. His father Donald West was the fire chief for about 20 years, and his brother Don West Jr. has also volunteered in the department, said current Chief Jared Carlson. While Carlson was unsure of when West started with the department, he said West left around January 2010.
"He was a great kid, very eager to help," said Carlson, who began volunteering a few months before West left. "I was a brand new firefighter at that time. He was very helpful to explain [things] … he was very gung-ho."
West was being held without bail in the Tooele County jail on suspicion of arson, criminal mischief and obstruction of justice.
Court records show that West pleaded guilty in two other arson cases, one in 2009 and another in 2010. In the 2009 case, South Jordan police suspected him of setting a small field fire, said South Jordan police spokesman Sam Winkler; and in the 2010 case, he set two Dumpster fires, said Tooele Police Capt. Paul Wimmer. West paid $500 in restitution in the 2009 case, was placed on probation and ordered to complete counseling with Valley Mental Health; and in the 2010 case, he was again placed on probation.
West also has a warrant for his arrest in connection with an assault in December.
The 179-acre fire started at 2 p.m. Wednesday and was fully contained by noon Thursday.
Eight homes were evacuated during the fire. Three homes were damaged, but remained habitable. Three outbuildings were destroyed, including the water tank.
The water tank, which provides half of Stockton's water supply, is a "total loss," said Mayor Mark Whitney.
The roof burned and 500,000 gallons of culinary water still inside the tank was contaminated, he said.
Whitney said the water eventually will be shut down for at least 24 hours. When water service is back online, there will likely be continued restrictions. There is another water tank to the east of town.
Whitney didn't know how long the restrictions, which remained in effect Thursday, might last.
Meanwhile, water was being distributed at the Stockton Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Stockton Fire Station and the Town Hall, according to emergency management. People need to bring their own containers to fill with water; bottled water is only available at the fire station.
The Tooele Army Depot had approved the use of its showers with proof of residency, and anyone interested was asked to bring their own towels.