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No negligence in Helena Valley saddle shop fire

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jan 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-01 12:01:28-05

East Valley Fire Department Chief  Dave Sammons is cautioning people to ensure heat lamps for animals are properly secured after a fire destroyed a Helena Valley saddle shop.

“This is the structure fire season,” said Sammons. “In summer, we have wildland fire season, and now we’re into structure season. Make sure you’ve got your chimney swept and your heat lamps are nice and secure for the outside critters and you know just be smart and be safe.”

Investigators believe an animal knocked over a heat lamp in a chicken coop, which started the fire. From there, it caught a nearby shed of hay bales, which led to the main building catching fire.

Sammons said he believes there was no owner negligence in regards to the fire.

Forty-four firefighters from East Valley Fire Department, Tri-Lakes Fire, West Valley Volunteer Fire Department,  Lewis and Clark County, York Volunteer Fire, and Montana City Fire spent more than seven hours fighting the blaze.

A couple of hay bales that were still smoking Monday morning were quickly extinguished.

Sammons said if it wasn’t for the mutual response, his people would probably still be fighting the fire. He is incredibly thankful for their response.

Weather also proved a challenge when fighting the fire due to a sudden cold snap.

“We had doors freezing on the fire engines and we had to come to some pretty creative methods to open those doors without damaging them,” said Sammons.

No injuries to the owners or firefighters were reported, but all of the chickens and several rabbits did perish in the fire.

-Reported by John Riley/MTN News

(December 30, 2018) On Sunday, flames and heavy black smoke rose from a saddle shop in the 2600 block of Tuohy Road in the Helena Valley.

The fire started before noon. East Valley Fire Department Chief Dave Sammons said it appears it was started by a heat lamp in a chicken coop. It then spread to an adjacent building, where hay was being stored.

“It was stuffed to the gills with hay,” said Sammons. “All of that hay caught fire, so we’re having to pull that hay out, spread it out and put it out.”

The fire then reached the main shop, where it burned through saddlery equipment, several vehicles and guns and ammunition the owner was storing inside. A propane tank also vented burning gas.

“It was very dangerous, just because we didn’t know what we had,” Sammons said.

The weather also interfered with firefighters. While they were trying to put out the fire, a cold front suddenly brought in heavy snow and wind.

“It forced us to move to the west, because it just inundated our apparatus with smoke,” said Sammons.

Sammons said no one was inside the building, but some chickens and rabbits were killed. No firefighters were injured.

It took several hours for firefighters to reach all the burning areas. Sammons said the building was much too unstable for crews to enter.

“I wasn’t going to put a firefighter in there and have the roof come down on them,” he said.

Firefighters ended up using heavy equipment – including a backhoe borrowed from the property owners – to bring down the walls so they could put out the remaining hotspots.

“I feel bad for them,” he said. “That was a big business that they lost. They lost everything in there.”

More than 40 firefighters were on scene, from the East Valley, West Valley, East Helena, Eastgate, Tri-Lakes, York, Lewis and Clark County and Montana City Fire Departments.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News