Arrest Made in '01 Arson Fire That Killed Phoenix Firefighter Bret Tarver


Bret Tarver

A 24-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of starting the 2001 fire that killed Phoenix firefighter Bret Tarver.

Chris Benitez was 15 when he started a fire in a trash mound next to a westside Southwest Supermarket, investigators believe.

Tarver was helping to battle the inferno when he became disoriented because of a lack of breathable air, says a write-up of the incident on the Web site of Phoenix Firehouse #8. His death launched numerous efforts to ensure a similar tragedy wouldn't happen again.

Benitez "had been a suspect for a long time," says Captain Hugh Chase of the Phoenix Fire Department. Following a grand jury indictment, Benitez was sent home from his service in Iraq and arrested on July 4 in Texas, Chase says.

The department plans a news conference this afternoon to give out more details about the case and another we wrote about today, the fatal arson fire at Young Champions of America.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.