July 29 Montana News Briefs

Monday, July 29, 2019

More than 300 firefighters battle flames in western Montana

HELENA (AP) — More than 300 firefighters battled three blazes in western Montana on Sunday, and Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency to allow truck drivers to work longer hours to deliver supplies to the lines. Bullock said increased demand for aviation fuel and other materials had put a strain on drivers’ hours. The North Hills Fire north of Helena was threatening roads and structures and prompted evacuations of about 100 homes, but officials said no houses had burned. The fire had burned 4 square miles (10.5 square kilometers) by Sunday. About 140 firefighters, 10 engines and two helicopters were on the scene but had not been able to establish any containment lines, officials said. The fire was believed to be caused by humans. The Bannack Fire had burned 150 acres (60 hectares) south of Butte. About 70 firefighters — including a state prison crew — built containment lines around 45% of the fire. Firefighters were pulled off the lines at the Bannack Fire Friday because of the discovery of two 1940s artillery shells that were designed to illuminate battlefields at night. Crews returned Saturday. The Beeskove Fire northeast of Missoula had burned 115 acres (47 hectares), and officials did not release any containment figures. High winds temporarily grounded aircraft at that fire Saturday. About 125 crew members were on scene. Both the Bannack and Beeskove fires were caused by lightning.

Great Falls teen dies while cliff-diving near Helena

HELENA (AP) — Authorities say a teenager has died while cliff-diving into the Missouri River north of Helena. The Helena Independent Record reports 17-year-old David Delcomte of Great Falls jumped from a cliff about 40 feet (12 meters) Saturday and did not surface. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says search and rescue divers found the youth’s body in about 30 feet (9 meters) of water. Dutton says the teen’s father dived into the water to try and locate his son but was unable to find him. An autopsy was planned.

Defense seeks lesser sentence in school sex abuse case

BILLINGS (AP) — Court records say law enforcement officers did not pursue charges in an eastern Montana school sex abuse case despite the suspect’s confession 17 years ago. The previous admission came to light in a sentencing recommendation filed Friday by a public defender for 79-year-old James Jensen. Jensen pleaded guilty to coercing boys into sexual abuse under the guise of improving their athletic performance while he worked as an athletic trainer in Miles City from the 1970s until about 1998. Federal prosecutors are seeking up to 15 years in prison. Jensen’s attorney is asking for eight years in a medical care unit, citing Jensen’s declining health and earlier confession. Babcock said the state cited the statute of limitations and the ages of the boys in deciding not to file charges in 2003. It is unclear why federal charges weren’t filed.

4 taken to hospital after crash near Rimrock Mall in Billings

(AP) —A two-car collision Friday evening blocked off westbound traffic on Central Avenue and sent four people to Billings hospitals. The 30-year-old female driver of a gold Mercury sedan and the 50-year-old female driver of a silver Chrysler sedan were taken to the hospital along with one passenger from each vehicle for injuries that weren’t life-threatening. The gold Mercury heading westbound ran a red light on Central Avenue and hit the silver Chrysler turning eastward on Central Avenue from the Target parking lot, according to Billings police officer Aaron Edwards. The collision occurred in the intersection of Central Avenue and Stewart Park Road at around 7 p.m. All passengers appeared to be wearing seat belts, and it’s unclear whether drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash. The speed was unknown at the time, Edwards said. Traffic citations were issued for the driver of the Mercury.

Fisherman missing in Montana’s Boulder River identified

BILLINGS (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a fisherman who went missing after falling into the Boulder River in south-central Montana. The Billings Gazette reports 50-year-old Bradford Meadows fell into the river Wednesday and still has not been found. Sweet Grass County Sheriff Alan Ronneberg says fast-moving water and a waterfall about 300 feet (90 meters) downstream from where Meadows went into the water made for dangerous search conditions. Searchers used drones and walked along the shoreline while wranglers from a nearby dude ranch also looked along the banks downstream from the waterfall, which has several tiers with a total drop of about 300 feet (90 meters).

EPA official says Montana site suited for Superfund status

BILLINGS (AP) — A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official says a Montana area emitting toxic vapors is a candidate to become a federal Superfund site. The Billings Gazette reports contaminants from old dry cleaning solvents are evaporating at several spots in an 855-acre (355-hectare) area in Billings. Agency national priorities list coordinator Victor Ketellappers said Thursday that the site is suited for the federal designation. The area was declared a state Superfund site in 1992. Ketellapper says a formal request from the governor would help list the site. The state Department of Environmental Quality tested 50 homes and businesses in the area last year. Department bureau chief Aimee Reynolds says two of the tests showed high vapors levels and lower levels were found elsewhere.

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