CHOTEAU — All 20 residents of the building have been accounted for; two people were taken to Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
According to the Teton County Sheriff's Office, the fire will more than likely continue to burn into the night. Sheriff Keith Van Setten said, "We don’t know what the smoke has in it. There’s a lot of toxins and stuff in there and we’re very concerned about issues in the future with breathing difficulties, if you breathe in that smoke too long, so we got a lot to do and really want people to be safe first.”
People in Choteau are asked to conserve water until further notice, due to the large amount of water needed to douse the fire.
Choteau mayor Chris Hindoien said, “Our EMS folks have gone door to door and asked those folks to evacuate as well just to keep them out of the smoke, and I talked to one of the guys that lived there, an ex city employee, and he said, 'I didn’t even grab my wallet when I got out,' so there’s going to be some issues here. We reached out to the Salvation Army in Great Falls and they’re going to be coming up as well.”
Apartment resident Joseph Ripley says he lost his best friend - his dog Thor. Ripley was returning from a grocery store and saw the building burning. He tried to run in to save Thor, but emergency personnel stopped him, saying it was too dangerous. “I had everything I owned in that apartment, so I’m in shock right now. My dog was my everything."
Firefighters from Choteau, Fairfield, Sun River, Pendroy, and Augusta all responded to help battle the fire. At this point, the cause of the fire has not been determined.
We will update you as we get more information, including any details about how you can help the displaced residents.
(1st REPORT, 12:18 pm) There has been an explosion of some type at a building in Choteau, and emergency crews are now battling a fire at the building.
The mayor of Choteau, Chris Hindoien, relayed the information to KRTV just after noon on Tuesday.
Witnesses tell KRTV it happened at the Gunther apartment building.
City officials urge people to avoid Main Avenue North, noting that this is a "large incident" and firefighters need the space and area.
At this point, we do not know if there have been any injuries, nor the possible cause.
We have a reporter headed to Choteau and will update you as we get more information.
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