Three Face Negligent Arson Charges in Ravalli County Justice Court
The three 18 year-old men accused of being responsible for the Roaring Lion Fire appeared in Ravalli County Justice Court Tuesday on charges of negligent arson.
Steven Banks, Tyler Johnson and Cody Knez appeared with members of their families, and were released on their own recognizance.
Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright said the three responded to summonses to appear in court.
"We had issued summons for all three to appear, we did not issue arrest warrants or ask them to be held on bail," Fulbright said. "They were released on their own recognizance with restrictions in place, and they are set to appear in District Court either on November 16th or 17th. They were charged with negligent arson. In the court documents I filed I said they certainly intended to start a campfire, but there's nothing to suggest that they purposefully started the forest on fire. Under criminal law it's what we call criminal negligence."
At their arraignment in District Court, the three will have an opportunity to enter a plea, typically a not guilty plea. Fulbright said the process would then be started in felony court.
The fire destroyed 16 homes, dozens of out outbuildings and cost over $11 million to fight. One man died of a heart attack while preparing to leave his home to escape the fire.
Fulbright said the matters of liability for the damage caused by the fire, if any, would have to come in civil court after the criminal matter has been settled.