Montana: man arrested for arson has fire department history

The man arrested Thursday for starting multiple fires in the Helena, Montana area was briefly a member of the East Valley Volunteer Fire Department, according to an article in the Helena Independent Record.

Frederick James May, 18, was charged with 12 counts of arson in connection with fires near York on Wednesday and in the Priest Pass area May 10. Five of those fires are being managed as the Sweats Complex, with the total number of acres burned listed at 450 with 225 personnel assigned.

Below are some excerpts from the Helana IR:

East Valley Volunteer Fire Chief Dave Sammons confirmed Thursday that Maw had served with that department for “about three or four months” last year before turning in his gear and preparing to join the military.

He had a relatively low level of participation in the department activities, Sammons said.

When Maw applied this winter to rejoin the department, he was refused, Sammons said, based on a review of his earlier performance.


Frederick James Maw, 18, was spotted on the scene of the fires outside York on Nelson Road, as well as in the Spokane Hills in Broadwater County on Tuesday, in full firefighting gear but apparently not affiliated with any of the fire crews.According to early reports, he claimed he was a contract firefighter.


He eventually admitted starting all three sets of recent fires, according to the report — nine in the York area, three on Priest Pass on May 10 and two in the Spokane Hills on Tuesday.Each arson count carries a possible penalty of 20 years in a prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

His arrest at about 5:50 p.m. Thursday capped a day in which fire crews scrambled to contain five fires suspiciously located on either side of Nelson Road. Deputies blocked the exit from the area in York to question travelers.

Rain on Thursday and higher humidity slowed the five fires in the Sweats Complex considerably. Their current status of as of 10 a.m. May 17:

  • Hunters Gulch at 150 acres and the fire is 75% contained
  • Sweats Gulch at about 300 acres and 25% contained
  • Pipepline Fire at 1 acre; contained, controlled and in patrol status
  • Kelly Gulch fires are a total of 5 acres and about 90% contained
  • Cottontail Fire at 2 acres is contained, controlled and in patrol status

Man arrested for starting fires near Helena, MT

A man has been arrested, suspected of starting multiple fires in the Helena, Montana area. Authorities are investigating Fredrick Maw of Helena and his possible role in starting five fires Wednesday, a 55-acre fire on Tuesday near the McMaster ranch, and another last week near Priest Pass.

The Helena Independent Record reported Mr. Maw “allegedly had been seen at the various fires as a private contractor seeking employment”.

The five fires that started Wednesday about 25 miles northeast of Helena are in the Helena National Forest and are being managed as the Sweats Complex. As of Thursday morning:

  1. Hunter Gulch Fire is more than 100 acres in size and is actively burning in grass and open timber, with 40% containment;
  2. Sweats Gulch Fire is about 300 acres with active fire behavior including isolated torching and crowning;
  3. [Unnamed] Fire approximately one acre, is contained and controlled;
  4. Kelly Gulch Fire is a group of five small fires that together are about 5 acres with a fireline around all of the fires;
  5. Cottontail Fire is about one acre and is contained.


Thanks go out to Al.

Montana: fire near Philipsburg burns homes

Ramsey Gulch fire
Ramsey Gulch Fire, Photo by Larry Craig

Strong winds on Monday pushed a fire through 350 acres of forest land four miles southeast of Philipsburg, Montana Monday. During the night the winds calmed down, but officials report that five homes and numerous outbuildings burned in the fire that was reported at 6:30 p.m. MT Monday.

Philipsburg is about 80 miles southeast of Missoula.

Residents have been allowed to return to their homes, according to an update on InciWeb, where the fire behavior is described as “creeping with occasional group torching and small runs”, which is very different from the conditions when these two photos were taken.

Management of the fire is transitioning to a Type 3 Incident Management Team under the direction of Incident Commander Jonathan Clark.

Ramsey Gulch fire
Ramsey Gulch fire as seen from Philipsburg 5-13-2013. Screen capture from a video by skarphace


Thanks go out to Chris.

Trial begins for man accused of starting Bear Trap 2 Fire

Bear Trap 2 Fire
Bear Trap 2 Fire. Inciweb photo by Ken Harris.

A trial began on Monday in Virginia City, Montana for a man facing multiple felony counts for allegedly starting the Bear Trap 2 Fire west of Bozeman, Montana in June, 2012. Kyler Schmitz is accused of starting the fire when fireworks he was using ignited vegetation, ultimately burning 15,341 acres of private, Bureau of Land Management, and State owned land. The fire cost more than $1.2 million to suppress.

Red Flag Warnings, April 29, 2013

Red Flag Warnings

Red Flag Warnings for enhanced wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Montana.


The Red Flag Warning map above was current as of 9:45 a.m. MT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

Revised schedule for the DC-10 air tanker visits

DC-10 air tanker Captains Jack Maxey (left) and Kevin Hopf will pilot the aircraft to four cities in the United States this week. (Photographed for TheAge by Paul Rovere in Victoria, Australia, December, 2009.)

The schedule for the visits of Air Tanker 910 to airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana that Wildfire Today told you about last week has been revised due to snow at Rapid City. (An air tanker should not have to suffer the indignity of de-icing.)

The revised schedule for the DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier is as follows, but keep in mind that the times are approximate, subject to change, and could vary by up to 30 minutes or so. All times are local.

Tuesday, April 23

  • Brainerd, Minnesota, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota, 2 p.m., and departing the next morning

Wednesday, April 24

  • Billings, Montana, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Missoula, Montana, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

At this time there are no planned tours for the public, but they may be able to see the DC-10 through a fence or from other locations.