Man Faces Arson Charge in Kalispell Apartment Fire

By Beacon Staff

A man accused of causing a large apartment fire north of here early Friday has been charged with a felony count of negligent arson.

David L. Bernach, 45, made his initial appearance in Flathead County Justice Court on Friday, where he was ordered held on $25,000 bail.

According to court documents, Bernach is accused of using gasoline to ignite wood in his fireplace after several previous attempts to get the fire started with other methods failed.

But some of the gasoline spilled out of the fireplace and spread flames into the apartment at about 1 a.m. The blaze gutted five apartments and damaged five more.

No one was injured in the fire, except Bernach, who, prosecutors say, tried to extinguish the flames by himself before seeking help.

“I think the charges are supported by the fact that he poured a can of gas into a fireplace and spilled it to the point where it came out of the fireplace,” Deputy Flathead County Attorney Alison Howard said. “I think if he had called emergency personnel earlier, the damage could have been mitigated.”

Bernach’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 11.