The owner of the Wild Horse Hot Springs has been arrested and charged with felony negligent arson after he allegedly started a fire that burned around 600 feet of tire-bale fence and destroyed four storage trailers on an adjacent property Thursday afternoon in Hot Springs.
Dennis D. Larson, 63, was arrested by deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and booked into the Lake County Jail. He faces up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $500 if convicted.
The fire began not long after Larson called the mayor of Hot Springs, Randy Woods, and asked if he could burn a debris pile on his property. Woods said he missed the call but responded a short while later, leaving a message telling Larson that starting a fire would be against the law. Woods then called the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Division of Fire, who sent a vehicle toward the property and noticed smoke coming from the area.
The fire Larson allegedly started quickly spread to a neighbor’s tire-bale fence, Woods said, and burned extremely hot, blazing down the fence line until firefighters, with an assist from a neighbor who was stacking hay nearby, broke up the tire fence before it could spread further. A CSKT bulldozer later dumped dirt on the tire fire to bury it.
Woods, who is also the chief of the Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department, said his department worked to protect nearby residences when it arrived on scene and was able to do so. The fire did, however, destroy four storage trailers on the neighboring property, some outbuildings and one vehicle. It also knocked out power to the Wild Horse Hot Springs, described as a healing arts center with an RV park, cabins and some of the town’s famous hot springs pools.
In addition to firefighters from Hot Springs and CSKT, the Ronan Fire Department, Polson Fire Department and Lake County Sheriff’s Office also assisted. In addition, seaplanes and a helicopter did multiple drops keep the fire from spreading to the nearby residences. Woods said smoke from the fire was seen as far away as Polson.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.