Montana Firefighter Admits to Starting Forest Fire

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A 26-year-old firefighter from Dillon says he started a fire in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and later worked on the Forest Service crew that extinguished the blaze.

Christopher Clark appeared in federal court in Missoula on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to damaging government property, a misdemeanor. Sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

Prosecutors say Clark and 23-year-old Kyle Zimmerman, also of Dillon, lit beetle-killed trees on fire in the Birch Creek area on Oct. 18, 2009. The fire burned about one-tenth of an acre, and Clark was involved in the suppression effort.

Authorities used distinctive tire tracks left at the scene to find Zimmerman, who also pleaded guilty Tuesday to damaging government property.

The Independent Record in Helena reports that another man, identified as Shildes Kellum, was with the men when they tried to start fires on Black Mountain on Oct. 17, 2009. Kellum, whose age and hometown have not been released, has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of damaging federal property.

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