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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Four teens face arson charges in destructive Hamilton, Montana, wildfire

Associated Press

HAMILTON, Mont. – A campfire that wasn’t completely extinguished caused a wildfire near Hamilton that burned over 13 square miles of forest land, destroyed 16 homes and 49 outbuildings and cost $11 million to fight, Ravalli County officials said in filing charges against four teens.

Three 18-year-old Hamilton men and a 16-year-old girl face felony and misdemeanor negligent arson charges for the Roaring Lion fire, which began on July 31 and led to the evacuation of around 600 homes. One homeowner suffered a fatal heart attack while preparing to evacuate.

Steven Banks, Tyler Landon Johnson and Cody William Knez received summonses Thursday to appear in Justice Court on Nov. 1, county attorney Bill Fulbright said Friday. The girl will face her charges in Youth Court. Fulbright did not know if they had attorneys.

The felony charge alleges the fire put people in danger of death or serious bodily injury while the misdemeanor charge alleges they placed property in danger of damage or destruction.

The teens told investigators they poured water on the fire and covered it in dirt on July 28, but an investigation determined the fire slowly spread east from the campfire ring until a cold front caused the fire to blow up three days later.

Court records say the case was solved when a civilian investigator matched a picture of the spot where the fire started with a photo the girl posted on Instagram.