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US man ‘caused wildfire by burning spider’

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A Utah man has been arrested and charged, amid accusations he sparked a massive wildfire while trying to burn a spider with his lighter.

Cory Allan Martin, 26, told deputies that he saw the spider on Monday (local time) while he was in a hiking area in the foothills south of Salt Lake City near the city of Springville, according to a police statement.

He acknowledged starting the fire but didn’t explain why he was trying to burn the spider.

Deputies found a jar of marijuana in Mr Martin’s belongings but he didn’t appear to be high, Utah County Sheriff’s Sergeant Spencer Cannon said.

There was no evidence to suggest Mr Martin intentionally started the blaze, Sergeant Cannon said, but he called it a reckless and puzzling decision.

The area, like most of Utah, is bone dry amid extreme drought conditions.

“What led him to stop and notice a spider and decide to try to burn it, we don’t know,” Sergeant Cannon said.

“There may not be a why. He might not even know a why.”

Mr Martin was arrested on suspicion of reckless burn and possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia, court documents show.

He was in the Utah County jail on Tuesday on nearly $US2000 ($2900) bail. It was unknown if he had a lawyer.

The wildfire quickly spread up the mountain and had burned more than 24 hectares as of Tuesday, according to fire officials. No homes had been damaged.