Man who started fire ‘to save hostages’ pleads guilty to arson

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Eric Bagge | Bonneville County Jail

IDAHO FALLS — The man who admitted to police he started a fire to get a hostage out of a home on Hoopes Avenue in August has pleaded guilty to arson.

According to court records, Eric Bagge, 40, pleaded guilty in District Court last week to felony first degree arson.

Court documents indicate Bagge told officers he started bushes on fire with a lighter near some apartments. He told officers starting the fire was his way of getting someone out of a hostage situation.

The Idaho Falls Fire Department responded to the fire on Hoopes Avenue and 12th Street on Aug. 30.

When the fire was started, four adults and one child were inside the home. Everyone got out safely and no injuries were reported.

RELATED | Man arrested for arson says he started fire to save a hostage

Fire investigators quickly discovered it was not accidental that the fire covered the exterior of one of the duplex units.

Officers received a voicemail from Bagge the next day saying he had information about drugs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, shootouts and a house being set on fire. In the voicemail, he was checking to see if an 18-year-old and a child had gotten out of the home, according to court documents.

He said he wanted to meet with detectives but did not answer their initial calls back. Police then discovered another voicemail from Bagge saying he wanted to ensure the safety of the 18-year-old and child by getting them out of the home by lighting the house on fire.

RELATED | Suspect arrested for arson after Idaho Falls duplex fire

When Bagge was asked about the fire, he accused a young man of starting the fire. Police attempted to gather information about the young man but Bagge failed to provide it. While being placed under arrest, he refused to comply and struggled with officers while being detained, according to court documents.

Police searched Bagge and found multiple knives, lighters and drug paraphernalia. After the arrest, Bagge eventually admitted to starting the fire to save a hostage then saying he called to report the fire.

Police did not say there was an alleged hostage situation that night.

The fire damaged bushes, vinyl fencing and siding. There was some smoke damage to the attic. However, firefighters were able to extinguish the fire quickly. Damages were estimated around $10,000.

Bagge is scheduled to be sentenced before District Judge Joel E. Tingey on Nov. 29 at 10 a.m.