Arson charges filed against two who started fire with exploding target, orphaning mountain lion cubs

Mountain lion cubs

Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

Felony arson charges have been filed against two people who allegedly started the Three Mile Fire nine miles east of Florence, Montana in August, 2014. The fire burned about 50 acres before firefighters extinguished it at a cost estimated at $94,000.

During the initial attack on the fire, Bitterroot National Forest firefighters rescued a pair of mountain lion cubs. The kittens, just a few weeks old, were taking shelter under a burning log. Firefighters called in a helicopter bucket drop to cool the log, and the kittens, although wet from the 600 gallons of water, were rescued. They were adopted by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium, and on September 23 made an appearance on David Letterman’s show along with Jack Hanna.

The two people being charged were busted at least in part by writing about their adventure on Facebook that amounted to a confession. They should also be charged with Felony Dumb.

Below are excerpts from an article in the Missoulian:

Tristan C. Olson, 30, of Missoula and Caitlin E. Hoover, 28, of Stevensville are scheduled to appear Feb. 17 on a series of felony charges stemming from the Aug. 29, 2014, fire on the Three Mile Wildlife Management Area.

The fire was started by an exploding target that was lodged in a tree surrounded by waist-high cured grass. The explosion ignited the tree and the fire quickly spread.

On Aug. 29, Hoover posted on Facebook: “My old pal Tristan Olson just showed up at mi casa and woke me up with a mikes hard ass slurpie and some guns and ammo…heading for the hills…ha! Yay!!!”

The last post on Olson’s Facebook page for the same day showed a photograph of a column of smoke rising above the Three Mile WMA fire with Olson’s back facing the camera. The caption read: “Dang…”

[…]

After receiving a search warrant for Hoover’s Facebook account, the affidavit said the warden found she had deleted photos of the two shooting together on the WMA.

He also found a conversation that Hoover had with someone named “Topher Devoe” on Sept. 21. In answering Devoe’s question of “what other crazy things have you done,” Hoover responded: “I just started a forest fire by shooting an assault rifle at an exploding target and burnt down 60 acres of forest. Shhh the fire is still under investigation.”

Hoover attached the photo of the Olson watching the smoke rising from the WMA.

We have written about exploding targets many times before. The dangerous devices consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile.

Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years. They have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that two years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in the Northern Region, which includes Montana. The Three Mile Fire occurred on state protected land in a Wildlife Management Area where target shooting is not permissible. The state of Montana has not taken action to specifically prohibit the use of exploding targets, although they can become illegal when fire restrictions are in place.

Orphaned mountain lion cubs fire

The orphaned cubs after being adopted. Photo by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dick.

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BLM firefighter recognized as hero for saving two girls from drowning

Justin Hanley

Sisters Chava (left) and Shoshana Berry (center) were on hand to make the presentation of the Carnegie Medal to Justin Hanley (right) the evening of Dec. 13.

A Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighter employed at the Miles City, Montana Field Office was recently awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism for saving two young girls from drowning in the Yellowstone River.

Justin Lowell Hanley saved Chava L. and Shoshana L. Berry from drowning near Miles City, Montana, August 4, 2013. Sisters Chava, 14, and Shoshana, 10, were wading in the Yellowstone River along the bank when the current pulled them into the deeper water of the river’s channel and carried them downstream.

According to a news release from the Miles City field office of the BLM-Eastern Montana/Dakotas, the sisters were wading along the bank of the river at Miles City when the current pulled them into deeper water and carried them downstream.

Mr. Hanley, who was staying in a rented trailer nearby, ran several hundred feet along the bank to a point just beyond the girls.

“We had just finished dinner, and my wife glanced out the window and saw a woman running with a kid,” Mr. Hanley said. “We went out and saw her two granddaughters in the river going downstream.”

When he entered the water, the current pulled on him, too, but he reached the sisters about 250 feet from the bank. Holding Chava with one arm and Shoshana with the hand on the same arm,he used his free arm to stroke back to the bank, the current continuing to take the three people downstream.

While his firefighter training may have not specifically prepared him for a river rescue, an important part of the job played a part, he said.

“With our fire training, we have about 1½ hours every day to train and stay in shape,” he said. “You don’t want to fight wildland fires out of shape.”

“I was plumb full of food,” he said with a chuckle. But during his time in the water, he wasn’t thinking about the nice meal he’d just eaten.

Fatigued and suffering abrasions, he finally reached the bank with the girls at a point about 700 feet downstream from where he entered the river.

The day after his efforts, Mr. Hanley was in Billings to be with two of his own children having their tonsils taken out. He learned that Chava, who had taken in a lot of water during the ordeal, was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and so he ended up visiting three children that day.

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Fire that orphaned mountain lion cubs was started by exploding target

mountain lion cubs fire

Sara Steele and Liz Shellenbarger dry off the mountain lion cubs found under a burning log. Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

Investigators have confirmed that shooters using exploding targets started the Three Mile Fire nine miles east of Florence, Montana in August. The fire burned about 50 acres before firefighters extinguished it at a cost estimated at $94,000.

During the initial attack on the fire, Bitterroot National Forest firefighters rescued a pair of mountain lion cubs. The kittens, just a few weeks old, were taking shelter under a burning log. Firefighters called in a helicopter bucket drop to cool the log, and the kittens, although wet from the 600 gallons of water, were rescued.

Mountain lion cubs

Photo by Cory Rennaker, Bitterroot National Forest Helitack, USFS.

A few weeks after being rescued, the cubs, named Lewis and Clark, were adopted by the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium, and on September 23 made an appearance on David Letterman’s show. During the first two minutes of the video below, Jack Hanna tells Dave about the blank spot in his brain, and then the cubs are brought on.

We have written about exploding targets many times before. The dangerous devices consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile.

Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years. They have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that two years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in the Northern Region, which includes Montana. The Three Mile Fire occurred on state protected land in a Wildlife Management Area where target shooting is not permissible. The state of Montana has not taken action to specifically prohibit the use of exploding targets, although they can become illegal when fire restrictions are in place.

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Satellite photo of wildfires in Northern Idaho and northwest Montana

Satellite photo of fires in N ID and NW MT 9-25-2014

Satellite photo showing fires in northern Idaho and northwest Montana, September 25, 2014. NASA. (click to enlarge)

This satellite photo from mid-day on Thursday shows wildfires in northern Idaho and northwest Montana. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite.

Smoke appears to be trapped in some drainages in Idaho, which was probably produced by the 8,500-acre Johnson Bar Fire and the 8,000-acre Selway Complex of fires. The fire across the state line near Thompson Falls, Montana, north of the smoky drainage in Idaho, is not showing up on the InciWeb maps.

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Wildfire briefing, September 12, 2014

Three homes damaged in Washington wildfire

A fire near White Salmon, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge damaged three residences Thursday afternoon. The spread of the Copper Fire was stopped at 10 acres and it was almost contained by 9 p.m. Thursday.

Bears are a problem on the fire in Yosemite

Firefighters on the Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park in California are having to deal with bears as well as the fire. The critters are described as a “major issue” for the safety of fire crews that are staying overnight in spike camps in remote areas near the fire. Measures are being taken to not attract bears to the food and other supplies. Trash is being backhauled daily.

The Meadow Fire started on July 19 and was monitored but not suppressed until it grew substantially on September 7. It is now 4,906 acres and the incident management team is saying it is 50 percent controlled.

Slow wildfire season saves Montana money

The wildfire season that has been much slower than normal in Montana has led to the lowest spending on firefighting in a decade. The number of acres burned in the state this year has been 12 percent of the five-year average. The $1.7 spent so far leaves about $44 million in the fire suppression fund that will be available to use next year.

New system to determine fire danger during Santa Ana winds

The U.S. Forest Service has worked with San Diego Gas & Electric and UCLA to develop a new system to calculate localized fire danger during the strong Santa Ana wind events that typically blow across southern California during the last months of the year. In addition to considering the typical inputs such as temperature, wind speed, relative humidity, and vegetation moisture, the “Fire Prep” program will also analyze the history of each target area over the previous 30 years. The USFS plans to send alerts designed to help fire agencies, other emergency responders and the public take appropriate action based on the threat level.

The system will be unveiled on September 17.

Nine naturally occurring eternal flames

An article at mnn.com lists and has photos of nine sites around the world that have naturally occurring fires burning almost non-stop – many of them for centuries. Most of the fires are fueled by natural gas or methane. There are dozens or hundreds of underground coal fires burning that are not listed, but those are typically difficult or impossible to see or photograph.

Lava flow less than half a mile from subdivision

The lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is now less than half a mile from the Kaohe Homestead subdivision boundary.

Target practice banned in some areas of California during drought

Excerpts from the Ramona Home Journal:

Cal Fire recently announced restrictions on recreational shooting of guns on public lands due to the extreme risk of wildfire that can result from discharging weapons during the current dry conditions.

Shooting is restricted by County Code when the California Department of Forestry proclaims a “high fire hazard,” which it did on June 20, 2014, making it unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm within State Responsibility Areas until the proclamation is lifted.

According to Cal Fire, there has been an increase in fires caused by recreational shooting across San Diego County, including the General Fire in 2013, and the Border Fire last month. Fire suppression costs for shooting-related incidents in San Diego County cost taxpayers more than two million dollars a year. The announcement from the agency also cited the Health and Safety Code, which states that persons who are responsible for starting a fire will be liable for the costs resulting from that fire.

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