get it home page promo

Helena man arrested in connection with recent wildfires

2013-05-15T17:19:00Z 2013-12-21T00:19:27Z Helena man arrested in connection with recent wildfiresBy EVE BYRON And SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record Helena Independent Record

YORK — Fredrick Maw of Helena is in custody in connection with wildfires in at least three locations in recent days, including Tuesday’s 55-acre blaze near the historic McMaster ranch, a five-fire complex near Nelson on Wednesday and a fire near Priest Pass last week.

The 18-year-old was arrested at about 5:50 p.m. by Lewis and Clark deputies, according to Sheriff Leo Dutton.

“He is being charged with multiple acts of arson,” Dutton said late Wednesday night. “The investigation into the (fire) starts is ongoing.”

Dutton anticipates that Maw will make his initial appearance in Justice Court in Helena at 1 p.m. Thursday before Judge Mike Swingley.

Initial reports noted that Maw allegedly had been seen at the various fires as a private contractor seeking employment.

Officials say nine fires of suspicious origin were discovered burning on the Helena National Forest Wednesday afternoon in the area between York and Nelson. Some of the fires were small and were stamped out or may have burned together to form the five-fire complex.

Two of the fires — one in Hunter Gulch and the other in Sweats Gulch — are actively burning. The largest of those two is at 200 acres, the smaller at 120 acres. The other three fires, which total less than 20 acres are pretty well under control, according to fire officials.

According to Helena National Forest Supervisor Kevin Riordan, there could have been more than the five fire starts, but the number cannot be verified.

Crews are expected to remain on the two fires throughout the evening. No structures are threatened at this time.

“We have very favorable weather conditions, and it should settle down tonight,” Riordan said. We are hoping probably after 8:00 tonight not to see a lot of fire activity up there. And if we get the projected moisture Thursday and Friday, we should be OK.”

Although initial reports said the blazes were in a line, Kathy Bushnell, the U.S. Forest Service information officer, said they actually were scattered about the area and burning on both sides of Beaver Creek Road.

Resources assisting the suppression efforts include the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, a 20-person forest hotshot crew, as well as volunteers with the Tri-Lakes, Eastgate, East Valley, West Valley, Lewis and Clark and Broadwater County fire departments. They were aided by two DNRC helicopters.

One engine was pulled off the Spokane Ridge fire burning in Broadwater County.

The Nelson-area fires bring the number of fires started in the past two days to six. The other fire at the historic McMaster Ranch property grew to about 55 acres Tuesday before about 80 firefighters, aided by two state helicopters, were able to limit it. The causes of all the fires remains undetermined.

Sonny Stiger, a longtime firefighter and current behavior analyst, said conditions are ripe for uncontrolled burns and he urged members of the public to be extremely cautious. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton has prohibited open burning at this point due to high winds and low moisture.

Stiger said he’s never seen it this dry at this time of year. He said the moisture currently in fuels like long grasses are more typical of what’s seen in late July or August instead of mid May. For example, the drought index, which runs from a scale of zero to 800, currently sits at 653.

“That’s absolutely unheard of at this time of year,” Stiger said. “That means that we would need 6 ½ inches of rain to saturate the duff (pine needles and other ground cover). From Thursday through Saturday night, they’re calling for showers, and we could get a half-inch to three-quarters-inch of rain. That’s got to help us; at least everybody might get a good night’s sleep.”

Copyright 2014 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. enu_22
    Report Abuse
    enu_22 - May 16, 2013 7:40 am
    As a Montanan I take arson very personally. That was my acreage that was burned, my animal habitat that was destroyed and my animals that are now displaced or died. Arsonists are the worst kind of thieves.
  2. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - May 16, 2013 7:24 am
    This guy needs a job, so give him a job of making little rocks out of big ones at Deerlodge.
  3. geeka1
    Report Abuse
    geeka1 - May 16, 2013 6:15 am
    So, if he is guilty , what comes of it? Does he just get a slap on the wrist or the maximum penalty, should be the latter part , no plea bargains, thats getting pretty old!
    Make the guilty party pay dearly!!

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow the Independent Record

Featured Businesses