GREAT FALLS — Three men are facing criminal charges for allegedly causing the Gibson Flats Fire that forced evacuations, destroyed homes and dozens of other structures just outside of Great Falls last week.
The fire on Wednesday, Dec. 1, destroyed at least 11 homes, 11 garages, numerous outbuildings, and several cars in the neighborhood that adjoins the southeast side of Great Falls. There were no serious injuries reported.
The fire started in a field around at 2:45 a.m. and was whipped by powerful winds with gusts of more than 50 mph. Great Falls Fire Rescue estimated that the fire burned about 120 acres.
The defendants are Brandon Cordell Bennett, Jr. 18, Jevin James Mclean, 19, and Galvinn Coates Munson, also 19.
Bennett has been charged with arson and tampering with or fabricating evidence. McLean has been charged with arson. Munson has been charged with arson and criminal mischief.
At a news conference Wednesday, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter showed aerial drone video of the Gibson Flats area, highlighting the extent of the damage.
Slaughter said that the three men were driving around, smoking marijuana, and shooting off fireworks from a car. Eventually, they stopped, got out, and set two fires.