SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A doomsday-fearing Utah man in his 80s spent more than 30 years building a stockpile of guns, grenades and food in scattered bunkers and cabins he illegally built in the wilderness, a Utah sheriff’s office said Friday.
“His only intent was to defend what he had there if the end of the world was to come,” Iron County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Del Schlosser said.
Schlosser said the man, fearing “end times” or some kind of collapse of society or the government, slowly constructed four cabins and underground bunkers in the forest outside the ski town of Brian Head, hiking up materials in a piecemeal fashion.
The bunkers were illegally built on state and U.S. government-owned land but weren’t discovered until a wildfire ripped through the area this summer, burning two of the cabins and exploding some ammunition.
Authorities have declined to release the identity of the man, citing an ongoing investigation, but said he lives in the town of Parowan about 20 minutes away and is cooperating with investigators.
State and federal prosecutors are considering whether to file criminal charges against the man, Schlosser said.
Schlosser said the man told law enforcement he didn’t live in the cabins but had prepared the hideouts and stockpiles in preparation for some kind of doomsday collapse of the government or societal upheaval.
In addition to the homemade cabins and bunkers, Schlosser said the man also had stashed weapons and other items in barrels and trash cans in the woods.
The man’s hideouts and supplies were scattered across eight locations within about a 2-mile radius.
“If you pack a few things in here and there, people don’t notice that,” he said.
Schlosser said the man did the majority of the work himself but appears to have had a few people help with the project over the year. Schlosser declined to offer more details about anyone else involved, citing the ongoing investigation.
Among the items investigators revered were dozens of novelty grenades, like the type purchased form a military surplus store, along with explosive powder. Schlosser said the man had tried to alter the grenades and make them explosive but they were all inert.
He declined to detail how many firearms were recovered from the man’s various hideouts.
After firefighters stumbled across a bunker and nearby cabin in late June, investigators found some material left behind that led investigators to identify the man, Schlosser said.
When authorities met with him at his home in Parowan, he admitted to owning the sites and having seven or eight similar stashes in the area.
A small cabin untouched by the wildfire contained two bunk beds, food and water, reading material and other items, along with ammunition.
The sheriff’s office, along with investigators from the FBI and other agencies, located and dismantled the bunkers and removed the items and ammunition, with the last of the material being flown out of by helicopters in November, Schlosser said.
Authorities said the wildfire, which destroyed 13 homes and cost some $40 million to fight, was sparked by a 61-year-old man burning weeds. He’s facing charges for reckless burning and burning without a permit.
The area is in some of the same remote territory where a reclusive survivalist lived in the wilderness and burglarized cabins.
Authorities said Troy James Knapp, nicknamed the “Mountain Man,” would stash weapons, dehydrated food and camping gear in the woods. Knapp was arrested in 2013 and is serving what will likely be a 10-year prison term for weapons and burglary charges.
Schlosser said there’s no connection between Knapp and the man whose hideouts were discovered this summer.