Montana News

Friday, April 20, 2018

Kalispell police investigate fire that destroyed vehicles at business

The Kalispell Police Department is working to determine the cause of a fire that tore through a Kalispell business early Thursday morning. The fire destroyed several recreational vehicles outside the shop. Flames punched a hole in night sky at Rick Anderson Snow Job and Dirt shop on Center Street. Owners are now assessing the damage. Dawn Brelje is one of the owners of the family-owned business. She said she was shocked by the extent of the damage. Brelje described it as horrible. “Everything burned to the ground," she said. Flames left multiple recreational vehicles in ashes, melted down or with only the frame remaining. Brelje told NBC Montana she thinks the damage will be around $50,000. The flames were so hot, even parts of the building morphed. That included signs, wires, and Brelje said she could not get the metal doors to open.
NBC Montana

Jury: Great Falls man not guilty in 2016 arson case

Gasps erupted from the courtroom gallery Thursday evening as the clerk read the jury's "not guilty" verdict at the end of a four-day arson trial. Daniel Doran was charged in October 2016, accused of burning down his late mother's home in a scheme to recover $462,000 in insurance payments. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before unanimously finding Doran not guilty. At his four-day trial this week, prosecutors presented a timeline in which Doran is tracked by hotel records and his cell phone. Doran rented a hotel room in Helena that evening and cell tower records indicated he was in Helena as late as 11:05 p.m. Prosecutors said at trial that Doran's phone was turned off shortly after, but he turned the phone back on around 12:50 a.m. At that time, his cell phone was reportedly pinging off towers just outside Great Falls, and continued to hit towards en route back to Helena.
Great Falls Tribune

Fire causes costly damage to Helena home

Fire investigators suspect a lighting fixture is responsible for an afternoon fire that did an estimated $75,000 worth of damage to a Helena home. The fire was called in at about 12:40 PM on Thursday, April 19th at a home on the eleven-hundred block of Choteau Street. Two engines and a rescue unit responded. Firefighters entered the home through the garage and the front door. Helena Fire Assistant Chief Ken Wood says the fire was knocked down in short order. The home was occupied by one person at the time, but no injuries were reported. The Red Cross has been called to assist the family living in the home.
KXLH-TV 9 Helena

Prescribed burns planned in Flathead aim to reduce wildfire damage

Flathead residents will be seeing some smoke this spring due to prescribed burns. The U.S. Forest Service has burn projects scheduled in the Hungry Horse, Swan Lake and Tally Lake districts. Forestry officials have been carefully planning the burns, and they say it's both an art and a science to carry out a prescribed fire. "Its very labor-intensive, and there's a lot of work that goes into this," said Mike West, with the Tally Ranger Fire District. West says they've prepared the grounds at burn project sites by chopping down trees, removing hazardous fuels and digging fire lines that act as natural boundaries. For them to be able to ignite the fires, the surface, as well as the atmospheric conditions, have to be just right.
KECI-TV NBC 13 Missoula

Bozeman Fire conducts Hazmat training with military support team

Firefighters are required to train on many different levels. Bozeman Fire’s Hazmat team often deals with unknown substances, and that was the focus of their training on Thursday. Part of the training was done by the Army and Air Force Civil Support Team, or CST. "They provide similar to what we do, and they have a little bit advanced equipment, but it’s easier for us to train this way than on an actual call," said Cpt. Scott Sanders, the Hazmat team leader for the Bozeman Fire Department. Bozeman Hazmat also learned correct ways to mark substances as evidence. And these skills will help in joint operations. "The main purpose is to assist them with how they are going to operate down-range and giving them an idea of how we operate. So, when we make major entries together we know what one another’s doing," said Tech Sgt. Beau Snellman, with the 83rd civil support team.
KBZK-TV Bozeman 7

Billings Flying Service putting water tanks inside helicopters to better fight fires

Five years ago, Billings Flight Service pushed the envelope of helicopter aviation when they became the first commercial owner, operators of CH 47 Chinook helicopters. Since then the behemoth twin rotar choppers, owned by brothers Gary and Al Blaine, have flown the globe contracting for transports, heavy lifts, and fighting fires. Now the company is pushing the envelope once again. This time innovating new systems and technologies to better equip the Chinook to put out fires. Instead of hauling buckets beneath the giant choppers, the brothers have installed a water-tank system inside the Chinooks, allowing them to better avoid tall structures. MTN Chief Photographer Paul Humphrey took to the skies to show us why these Billings helicopters could quickly become the most sought after fire fighting resource in the country.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Central Valley goes to the public for a new fire station at airport

The Central Valley Fire District is in need of a new building and is hoping that a levy will be the answer to the current building’s woes. In a tour of the Fire Station on West Main Street this week, Chief Ron Lindroth talked about the concerns with the current building, which was first built 60 years ago. An examination of the building’s façade shows cracks at the bottom of the cinderblock foundation, indicating trouble. “When it deteriorates at the bottom, you literally have to pull the whole wall to repair it,” said Lindroth. Cracks up the walls of the outside of the building are a surefire sign that the building would not withstand an earthquake. While most earthquakes in Montana are felt north of Helena, that doesn’t calm fears. “If we had any sizeable earthquake, this facility would crumble,” Lindroth said, “And we don’t want emergency services to be out of service when we have an earthquake.”
Belgrade News

Overnight explosion reported in Kalispell

Residents reported a fire at Rick Anderson Snow Jobs and Dirt, located on 700 block of West Center Street, early this morning in Kalispell. Viewers started sending in images at about 2:15 a.m. of a large fire at the snowmobile and motorcycle repair shop. According to Dave Dedman with the Kalispell Fire Department, this was not a structure fire, but a fire that involved various motorcycles and snowmobiles outside of the business. Investigators are currently on scene. Part-owner Dawn Brelje told us it is estimated to be about $50,000 worth of damages. The burnt vehicles are a mix of their own and customers. Another resident says it sounded like gunfire at first, but then turned out to be explosions. Residents say emergency crews were on the scene. We are working to get more details from emergency officials.
NBC Montana

Prescribed burns planned for the Bitterroot

The following press release was sent out by the Bitterroot National Forest: The Darby/Sula Ranger District is planning, weather permitting, to implement spring prescribed burning projects beginning this week. Fire crews are planning on conducting a 200-acre prescribed burn tomorrow east of Sula. The burn is scheduled to start around 1:00 p.m. up the East Fork, north of East Fork Road and west of Guide Creek. Fire crews from the Darby/Sula, West Fork, and Stevensville Ranger Districts along with Trapper Creek Job Corps are participating in the burn along with several engines. Smoke will likely be visible from East Fork Road. Tomorrow’s burn is one of several prescribed fire projects planned this spring on the forest totaling approximately 2,500 acres. Over the next several weeks, fire crews will be conducting low intensity, understory burns to reduce hazardous fuels and the risk of tree mortality from an unplanned, or catastrophic wildfire or competition from undesirable species. Treatment areas include:

Great Falls man to plead guilty to arson, theft in Sip N’ Dip fire incident

The man who allegedly set fire to a van in the Sip N’ Dip parking garage last year signed a deal with prosecutors earlier this month to plead guilty to arson and theft. Jeremy Allen Porter was charged in March 2017 with felony arson and theft. On April 2, Porter signed a plea deal in which he agrees to plead guilty to one count of arson and theft. Cascade County prosecutors agreed to drop a second arson charge. For the felony arson charge, prosecutors recommended 20-year prison sentence with 15 suspended. The felony theft sentence recommendation comes with five years in Montana State Prison that will run concurrently with the arson charge. In March 2017, Porter reportedly attempted to catch a van on fire while inside the O’Haire Motor Inn in downtown Great Falls. Additionally, Porter had taken multiple boxes that were valued at over $2,000 each, according to court documents. The boxes however, were not burned with the vehicle. Porter and the boxes were found at the Alberta Motel, but the contents were not disclosed, police said.
Great Falls Tribune

Bullock declares emergency for parts of Montana affected by flooding

Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order on Wednesday declaring a state of emergency due to flooding in seven counties, on the Fort Belknap Indian reservation, and in the town of Chester. The executive order has been issued for the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the town of Chester, and Pondera, Hill, Blaine, Valley, Toole, Liberty, and Petroleum Counties. Bullock said in a press release: “As Montanans are faced with flooding, we are doing everything necessary at the state level to protect health and safety, and to preserve lives, property, and resources. We continue to keep in close communication with local and tribal officials as we monitor conditions around the state.” Rapid snowmelt and flooding have impacted the Milk River Basin and Marias River Basin with the potential to cause widespread damage to farmland, private residences, and critical infrastructure.

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