(Editor’s note: the following is an update to the original arrest story published on our website on July 7. All information and facts are based on declarations and officer reports filed with the Clark County District Attorney’s office.)
For the past several months, the Virgin Valley has been plagued with an increase of fire activity, many of which were determined to be arson by investigators.
Bunkerville resident Thomas Blaine Bowler, 40, was arrested for a second time on July 7 by investigators.
His first arrest on June 17, which netted one charge of arson in the first degree and four counts of arson in the third degree, was short lived, as he was bailed out soon after processing. That arrest was the product of an initial investigation by Clark County Fire Department Investigator Linda Poe and surveillance conducted by Mesquite and Las Vegas Metro Police which included watching Bowler as he was seen leaving the scene of a fire on June 13 at 50 Middle Lane and 222 First South Street in Bunkerville. The investigation of the fire was concluded to be human-caused with ordinary combustibles and a lighter, originating in the living room area of the house.
During an interview after his first arrest, Bowler admitted to setting three of four fires, which officers had witnessed on June 15. As per the declaration by Poe, “Bowler was followed through the city (sic) of Bunkerville and Mesquite as he set four fires to brush. Three of the fires were directly observed by the officers as Bowler set it. The fourth fire, Bowler was observed walking into a local park and then exiting. Minutes later, a fire occurred where Bowler had gone. Subsequently, during an interview, Bowler admitted to three of the four fires.”
After his release, several other fires were sparked throughout the valley, with the most recent being the Hafen Park fire on July 6. The details included in his arrest report by officers on July 6 do not include whether or not Bowler is responsible for investigated for the brush fire at White Rock Road on June 22 or the larger fire on June 30 at the Virgin River behind the Bunkerville Park. During the June 30 fire, the Bureau of Land Management had to use their aircraft to drop fire retardant on the area, since the fire had spread to spots that were not accessible by traditional equipment.
On July 6 officers from both MPD and LVMPD followed Bowler for over two hours throughout Bunkerville and Mesquite as he stopped at various businesses and changed travel patterns. His final destination was the parking lot for the Hafen Park Tennis Courts.
Minutes after arriving, officers saw Bowler running from the brush near the river with a visible fire behind him. According to the officer’s report from the Clark County District Attorney’s office, the flames shot up to nine feet high as Bowler fled. Within moments, he was apprehended. After being handcuffed, Bowler “made a motion as if he was going to flee on foot,” the report said, and he sustained minor cuts to his face as the officers regained control of him. He refused medical treatment at the hospital, but was checked out by paramedics on scene.
Bowler has been in Clark County Detention Center and was set to appear before a judge on July 12 at 10 a.m. for his felony arraignment. Because of the most recent arson occurring on federal land, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives will be handling the case.
Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan released a statement on July 7 explaining that this case has been a result of many agencies working together.
“The Clark County Fire Department (CCFD) rural division, CCFD investigators, Mesquite Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) have been working together on the investigation of these incidents that have taken place in Mesquite and Bunkerville,” said Buchanan. “This was a large multi-jurisdictional effort that required tremendous coordination and is an example of the support (and strong partnerships) shared among public safety agencies in Southern Nevada.”
If further investigations reveal that Bowler was the sole cause of the rash of arsons in Bunkerville, he could face additional charges.
Developments in this case will be updated as they become available on our website, www.mesquitelocalnews.com.