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Three teens arrested on arson charges for Montana fire that burned 13 homes

The teens were shooting fireworks on Dec. 1. when the blaze erupted and razed through over 84 acres in Gibson Flats area, authorities said.
Syndication: Great Falls Tribune
A wind driven fire burned through the Gibson Flats area south of Great Falls, Mont., in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2021.Rion Sanders / Great Falls Tribune via USA Today Network

Three teenagers have been arrested for allegedly starting the Gibson Flats Fire in Montana that razed through over 84 acres and burned 13 homes, authorities said.

Brandon Bennett Jr., 18, Jevin McLean, 19, and Galvinn Munson, 19, were arrested and booked on arson charges, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter announced in a press conference Wednesday.

The wildfire blaze was reported to local police around 2:40 a.m. on Dec. 1. in the Gibson Flats area, south of Great Falls, Slaughter said.

Deputies who arrived to the scene found the flames spreading rapidly due to high winds, threatening homes in the area. As a result officials started to immediately evacuate residents. 

Slaughter said the initial investigation indicated there were two separate fires started near Highland Road and the flames moved into a residential area.

Officers with the Cascade County Sheriff's office present evidence as charges were brought forward.
Officers with the Cascade County Sheriff's office present evidence as charges were brought forward.Cascade County Sheriff's Office

The first was a grass fire that burned over one mile in radius, the second burned just over 84 acres — razing through 13 homes, 16 outbuildings, numerous vehicles and personal property, Slaughter said.

Investigators said residential surveillance footage showed a vehicle the teens were in at the starting place of the second fire.

The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office received information from citizens that the three teens had been setting off fireworks where the fire originated. 

The three were interviewed by detectives who learned that the teens were driving in the area the night of the blaze smoking marijuana and shooting fireworks inside the vehicle, Slaughter said.

He said detectives also learned that Munson had set both fires intentionally.

“The initial fire was started with the intentional setting of a Roman candle, intentionally shooting it into the grass. Fire number two was set, according to statements, by Munson with a lighter intentionally," he said.

Munson was arrested on 13 counts of criminal endangerment and two counts of arson. Bennett and McLean were arrested on arson by accountability, officials said.

The Cascade County Public Defender's office could not be immediately reached for comment on the charges.