News & Features

Arson Suspected in Two Wildfires West of Ronan

Sloan’s Fire No. 1 and No. 2 each burning more than 90 acres; fires are latest in string of suspicious starts throughout Northwest Montana

Authorities believe two wildfires started on the Flathead Indian Reservation on Thursday, Aug. 13 were set intentionally, adding to a growing number of suspected arsons in Northwest Montana this year.

The Sloan’s fires are burning near Sloan’s Bridge, approximately 12 miles west of Ronan. Sloan’s Fire No. 1 was 94 acres and No. 2 was 90 acres as of Friday morning. Investigators believe the fires were intentionally set either on or near Little Bitterroot/Sloan Road and quickly wind-blown through the mostly grassy area. The fires are approximately 1/4 mile apart. No road closures are active at this time but officials ask people to avoid the area if possible and to follow traffic signs posted on Little Bitterroot Road.

A total of 120 firefighting personnel are battling the two fires, which Confederated Salish and Kootenai Division of Fire spokesman C.T. Camel described as “nuisance fires” that are under control. Nonetheless, Camel said his department is asking the public to “keep their eyes open” to help identify the person or persons who may be responsible.

A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information on the Sloan’s fires. Calls can be placed anonymously to local law enforcement or a tip line at (800) 472-7766. Tips may also be reported online at www.wetip.com.

In recent weeks, Northwest Montana has been plagued by a series of apparent arson fires. No known connection has been made between the incidents, which include fires started outside Glacier Gateway Elementary School in Columbia Falls and the Summit Mountain Lodge near Marias Pass on July 22. Then in the overnight hours between July 22 and 23, eight fires were intentionally set in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, one of which burned the historic Ford Creek patrol cabin to the ground. Earlier this month, a Columbia Falls apartment complex started on fire twice in the span of four days, with the second fire deemed suspicious by investigators.

The North Fork Landowners Association is sponsoring its own $10,000 reward for information on the fires in Glacier Park, and anyone with information on any of the arsons can call Flathead Crimestoppers at (406) 752-8477 to make an anonymous report. Glacier Park has also established a tip line at (406) 888-7077.