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Butte woman speaks out after abandoned camper catches fire near her house

Neighbors concerned about abandoned campers in Butte
Camper fire in Butte
Posted at 12:47 PM, Apr 23, 2024

BUTTE — Butte-Silver Bow put out a public service announcement last week regarding a fraudulent notice using city-county letterhead to have an RV removed from the public right-of-way near a home in North Butte. But the PSA is stirring up emotions for many who want to see more done about the problem.

"I’m just angry at the city. I have called countless times to try and get this moved and, like I said, my worst fears happened. It caught fire and my children sleep 50 yards away," says Melanie Rae Wendt.

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Melanie Wendt says a camper she has attempted to get Butte-Silver Bow to remove caught fire 50 yards from where her children sleep.

Wendt lives on a quiet corner near Blacktail Creek Trail on the Flat. She says she has been calling daily about a camper that has been on her street since the end of February. A citation was placed on the RV last week—a couple of days before it caught fire in the middle of the night.

"Thankfully there was no explosion; we got off on the lighter end of the possibilities, but there’s so many possibilities and it could’ve been easily avoided, very easily," says Wendt.

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Wendt says when she saw the PSA about the fraudulent notice she felt like the city was doing something about the note while ignoring the problem in her neighborhood.

"I talked to so many actual people and got so big of a runaround. I think I talked to everyone who works for the city and just got told, talk to this department, talk to this department. Call this department," says Wendt.

John Moodry, the director of community enrichment, says that there is a process for removing abandoned vehicles and issuing citations and he says the process might take longer than expected.

"It’s very hard to enforce and there are a lot of them. We understand that. There are a lot of these camp trailers that are parked in the right-of-way and we do not patrol for those but we do handle those on a complaint-driven basis," says Moodry.

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John Moodry

Moodry says he and his team are doing the best they can with the process that they have in place.

"I know it doesn’t happen as quickly as people think it should happen, but we do the best we can with the ordinance and the Montana code annotated that we have," he says. "You know, we have to give proper notification. We cannot just take a vehicle off because somebody doesn’t like it. It has to go through the proper process."

The county is asking citizens who receive fraudulent notices on county letterhead to disregard them or to call law enforcement to report false citation, and Moodry says if people feel their complaints are not being addressed, they can come directly to him.

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