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Fire officials explain uptick in Butte structure fires

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Jun 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 18:27:30-04

Butte’s historic homes are beautiful and unique but owning an older home comes with extra fire precautions.

"New construction doesn’t burn as often as older construction. You have communities like Great Falls and Butte and parts of Billings that have a lot of fires but overall, I would say Butte has more fires than anybody", Butte Fire Chief Zach Osborne said.

It’s only June and Butte has seen several devastating fires. According to Butte Fire Marshal Kelly Lee, there has been an uptick in fires with approximately 24 structure fires while last year the total amount of fires was 40 structure fires for the entire year.

"Just plugging in too many things to electrical outlets, another type of fire cause is sometimes we have heating fires in the winter. Somebody might have an old furnace that’s not working correctly so they might plug in space heaters that could possibly catch fire as well. Those are some of the main causes of fires, " Lee said.

"Without a doubt, we have a lot of fires per ratio for our total calls. I know I went a meeting with other chiefs in the state and at one time we had 18 structure fires and Missoula had zero for 2023, " Osborne said.

Butte fire officials say that responding to the increased amount of fires does put a tax on the department.

"We have thirty-six paid, career firemen with about 115 volunteer firemen, and volunteers can always make it when they can and we just do what we can and I think we are pretty good firemen. We know our jobs. We train hard and it seems like in 2023 we really haven’t had to train a lot we’ve just been getting a lot of hands-on live-action," Osborne said.

The fire department offers a program for free fire detectors and asks Butte residents to call the fire station for more information on how to access the program.