Three arrested in connection to Dec. 1 Gibson Flats fire
Three men were arrested overnight and booked into the county jail in the early hours of Dec. 8.
They have been charged with arson and other crimes for the Dec. 1 fire in the Gibson Flats area that destroyed 13 homes, 16 outbuildings, numerous vehicles and other property items, according to the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
Brandon Bennett, 18; Jevin McLean, 19; and Galvinn Munson; 19, were expected to make their initial appearances in District Court around 3 p.m. Dec. 8.
Slaughter said Munson allegedly started the fires intentionally and has been charged with 13 counts of criminal endangerment and two felony counts of arson.
Bennett and McLean have been charged with arson by accountability.
Slaughter said that the fire was reported around 2:41 a.m. Dec. 1 and CCSO arrived around 2:44 a.m. to find the fire threatening homes and deputies began evacuating residents.
There were high wind warnings in the area that day, and according to the National Weather Service station in Great Falls, Great Falls broke the record temperature for the day at 67 degrees at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1. The record was 60 degrees in 1985.
Slaughter said that through the investigation, but the State Fire Marshal’s office, that there were two fires near Highland Road.
The first was only a grassfire that burned about a mile radius. The second burned around 84 acres and destroyed 13 homes, 16 outbuildings and numerous other property.
CCSO officials said that most of the homes, structures and property were lost around Eaton Avenue.
Slaughter said that Dirk Johnson, the state fire marshal who was formerly the fire marshal at Great Falls Fire Rescue, reviewed footage from a residential security camera in the area that showed a vehicle arriving and departing the area near the second fire, which was determined to be where the fire originated.
A few days into the investigation, Slaughter said CCSO received tips from the public that three individuals had been in the area setting off fireworks where the fire originated.
Those three were identified as Munson, McLean and Bennett, Slaughter said, and deputies interviewed the three.
During those interviews, Slaughter said that one of them disclosed they’d been driving around the area, smoking marijuana and shooting fireworks at each other inside the vehicle.
Slaughter said that during the investigation, it was determined that Munson had used a roman candle for the first fire, and lighter for the second and started the fires intentionally.
Slaughter said that videos related to the fire had been shared online and that if anyone has those videos to contact CCSO.
Slaughter said that the Great Falls Association of Realtors and Homebuilders Association of Great Falls contacted him about resources available to those who lost their homes in the Dec. 1 fire and that those impacted could contact either of those agencies for information.