Investigation Surrounding Fatal Motor Home Fire Continues

Sheriff, prosecutor meet with residents concerned about blaze that killed child

By Molly Priddy
The scene of the fire, 425 Daley Lane near Foys Lake, is pictured Oct. 6, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Neighbors of the family whose motor home burned down on Oct. 1 met with the Flathead County attorney and the Flathead County sheriff this week to discuss concerns with the ongoing investigation.

Eight-year-old Autumn Hawk died in the fire, which occurred at 425 Daley Ln. near Foys Lake, west of Kalispell. Her parents were able to escape the fire.

The fire investigation team looking into the incident reported on Oct. 8 that due to the hot, fast nature of the blaze, there wasn’t enough evidence to identify a cause. An autopsy determined that Hawk died of smoke inhalation and burns. Her body was found outside the motor home’s door.

A group of neighbors, other residents, and activists approached the county attorney’s office and the sheriff about their concerns with previous observations of the property and its inhabitants.

The meeting with the county attorney’s office took place on Oct. 13. Instead of a single discussion, each neighbor was interviewed by a local prosecutor, a representative from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), and an administrator from the Child and Family Services Division.

Jon Ebelt, spokesperson for DPHHS, said the additional CFSD staff attended the meetings at the request of the county attorney’s office.

On Oct. 16, neighbors again met with Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry about their concerns, which ranged from potentially illegal activity on the property prior to the fire to procedural questions regarding the investigation.

After the Oct. 16 meeting, Curry said in an interview that the investigation into what happened at 425 Daley Ln. is still ongoing, and investigators are conducting “a lot” of interviews in reference to this case.

“It warrants investigation; we had had numerous law enforcement responses to that location in the past,” Curry said. “When there is no physical evidence that is available to look at as to the cause of the fire, we have to go to interviews.”

There have been some developments in the case, Curry said, and investigators are following up on information. He also said he understands that people want to know what is happening, but his office can’t reveal all the details of an investigation to the media without hampering said investigation.

“We certainly attempted to reassure (the neighbors) that we do know what we’re doing, and they have to at least trust that we’re not incompetent and we take this very seriously,” Curry said. “Our goal was to address their concerns without making it harder to do our investigation.”

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