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Montana News

May 1, 2013 6:27 PM by MTN News - Bozeman

Man charged with causing Bear Trap 2 Fire found not guilty

VIRGINIA CITY - Kyler Schmitz, the man accused of sparking last summer's Bear Trap 2 Fire, was acquitted on all charges following a three-day jury trial.

Schmitz was charged with nine felony counts of arson.

After deliberating for less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, a Madison County jury found Schmitz not guilty on all counts.

Schmitz took the stand on Tuesday and admitted to starting the fire. He said that he lit the firework that started the fire, but the firework did not work properly.

Schmitz said he tried to put out spot fires then called for help, and that he threw water from coolers onto the fire and then filled the coolers from the river to dump on the fire.

In opening arguments, the defense argued that Schmitz notified other campers of the fire, tried to put it out, and was accountable for his actions.

On Monday, the first day of trial, the prosecution played a tape on which jurors could hear Schmitz telling a deputy he was responsible for the fire.

According to the prosecutor, Schmitz made a series of choices that led to the blaze that destroyed private property, including a home.

According to charging documents, Schmitz and several friends were camping at the Bear Trap Campground in the Lower Madison recreation area.

On the morning of June 25, 2012, Schmitz reportedly lit a firework that exploded several feet from the ground. According to witnesses, the firework sparked several fires in nearby tall grasses. The group tried to put out the fires with water and dirt, but the blaze quickly grew out of control. They fled and called 911.

The fire consumed more than 15,000 acres and cost more than $1.2 million.

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