GREAT FALLS — Dennis Jackson has been arrested in connection with last month's fire at the Gunther apartment building in Choteau.
Teton County Sheriff Keith Van Setten says that, according to charging documents, Jackson tampered with a propane tank and then lit a flame, leading to the explosion and fire that destroyed the building.
The fire resulted in two residents being treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation, displaced all 20 of the residents of the building, and claimed the lives of several pets.
The investigation was done by the Montana State Fire Marshal and a private investigator from an insurance agency.
Susan James, manager of the apartment building, said of the suspect, “I talked to him quite a bit and been in his apartment a lot until the last month, and it’s just like a shock. I wouldn’t have expected that.”
James said of the criminal charges being filed: "I got a bunch of mixed emotions about it. I feel like there’s a little bit of closure, but I’m pretty upset too because a lot of people lost all their belongings and stuff. It hurts really bad, it’s just something that shouldn’t have happened.”
She said on Monday that of the seven residents who were displaced by the fire with nowhere to go, three of have moved out of the state, two continue to stay in big sky motel, and one situation remains unknown.
Jackson, 55 years old, is facing charges of arson and criminal endangerment, and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Tuesday; we will update you as we get more information.
Steve Dogiakos, president of the Choteau Chamber of Commerce, created a GoFundMe account so people can donate to help with recovery efforts. The account page notes: "Opportunity Bank has set up a donation account and is matching the first $2,500 donated and Neighbors Helping Neighbors will match the second $2,500 to help these displaced members of our community." Click here if you would like to help.