HAMILTON, Mont. – Three 18-year-old Hamilton men have pleaded not guilty to negligent arson. Prosecutors alleged they failed to fully extinguish a campfire in the Bitterroot National Forest in late July that days later sparked a wildfire that burned more than 13 square miles, destroyed 16 homes and led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes.
Tyler Johnson pleaded not guilty on Wednesday while Steven Banks and Cody Knez entered their pleas Thursday.
KTMF-TV reported Banks’ attorney moved for dismissal, arguing Banks’ actions did not deviate from the standard of conduct a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
Attorney Michael Montgomery said the fire was extinguished using established practices, the defendants said the ground was cool to the touch and that garbage left in the ring did not burn.
District Judge James Haynes denied the motion on Thursday.
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