Cause of Mount Helena fire remains a mystery, but it could be humans

Phil Drake

The cause of the Aug. 28 Mount Helena fire that burned 18 acres of hillside remains a mystery, with authorities officially listing its cause as “undetermined” but leaning toward believing it was caused by people.

“We know exactly where it started,” said Lou Antonick, fire marshal with the Helena Fire Department. “The most frustrating piece missing is how it started.”

And the mystery deepens as officials said they have no idea if the fire was set intentionally or by accident.

Antonick said the Helena Interagency Fire Investigation team — made up of members of the Helena Fire Department, Helena Police Department, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and U.S. Forest Service — started its investigation when the fire started and worked three days going through the evidence.

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The fire, reported about noon, started just south of a neighborhood on Helena’s Westside. Officials said it burnt through grassland before getting into timber. The initial access point for firefighters was Henderson Street and LeGrande Cannon Boulevard. It was about four hours later that firefighters said they would begin mopping

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