We may have thought we had a handle on “stupid,” as Gov. Gary Herbert used it earlier this week. Stupid is target shooting or being reckless with fireworks around tinder-dry vegetation. Stupid is parking your hot car on top of dry grass.
“Stupid” is a human condition we generally regard as preventable. I’m guessing most of us commit stupid from time to time, but we can avoid it by thinking really hard, or maybe using caffeine.
But what do we do about “sicko”?
Wilbert Edward Fike, Jr. is a 54-year-old Salt Lake City resident who walked into the city’s Fire Prevention Bureau on Thursday and turned himself in for allegedly starting a fire on purpose in Memory Grove that burned close to a half an acre before firefighters could corral it.
Police told the Deseret News they believe the confession. Fike has a history.
According to a news account from last summer, he flagged down a police officer and confessed to starting a similar fire in Memory Grove. Luckily a passing rain shower had already put that one out.
But the very next morning he once again turned himself in for allegedly doing the same thing. This time the fire spread to three acres and threatened some houses behind the State Capitol.
A year earlier, he was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor arson. In 2007, he got up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony arson conviction.
As a lot of folks around here would say — what the heck?
Is this kind of like when someone gets arrested for drunk driving and causing someone’s death and then we find out he has a long DUI rap sheet filled with lenient sentences? Do you have to kill someone before arson gets some serious attention?
I would rail on the corrections system for failing to attempt to rehabilitate people. But a lot of web sites on the subject, including minddisorders.com, indicate there is little understanding of adult pyromania or its treatments.
If I lived in the Memory Grove or Capitol Hill neighborhoods, however, I’d be asking some tough questions.
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Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist of the Deseret News. He has 32 years experience as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Oklahoma, New York City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He also has been an adjunct journalism professor at Brigham Young and Weber State universities.