Montana firefighters make progress, watch winds
RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) — Firefighters in Montana are mopping up but keeping a close eye on the winds.
Mariah Leuschen, spokeswoman for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, says a fire that broke out Saturday in grass and dense timber near Red Lodge was 30 percent contained Tuesday. A plane equipped with infrared sensors went up Tuesday morning, while dozens of firefighters on the ground were painstakingly feeling along the edges of the blaze. The high-tech equipment and the human teams both are seeking lingering embers and hot spots.
Leuschen says firefighters are concerned about strong winds expected to accompany a cold front Tuesday afternoon after a sunny, warm morning.
Meanwhile, the Pine Crest fire 4 miles northeast of Columbus, which also broke out Saturday, was reported 45 percent contained.
Montana lawmakers consider referendum revising term limits
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana representatives are considering a proposed referendum to allow legislators to remain in office for up to 16 years in one chamber.
Members of the House State Administration Committee took no immediate action after hearing House Bill 639 Tuesday.
The measure, as amended, would allow lawmakers to serve 16 years in the Legislature in one or between both legislative chambers in any 20-year period. Currently, Montana’s constitution states lawmakers can serve eight years in the House in any 16-year period and eight years in the Senate, meaning they have to be elected to another chamber to serve 16 years.
Democratic Rep. Ellie Hill says her proposal would allow lawmakers to move more naturally between the House and the Senate.
If two-thirds of the Legislature approves it, the measure would go to voters in November 2016.
VA Secretary, Sen. Tester to meet with veterans in Montana
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald will tour Montana VA facilities on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They will speak with veterans, VA employees, local health care providers and community leaders to better understand the challenges veterans face in the state.
Tester and McDonald will visit Helena’s Fort Harrison VA hospital for a discussion with veterans Tuesday morning and then will travel to Missoula to meet with student veterans at the University of Montana.
They will visit with veterans at the Billings Public Library Wednesday.
Tester serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. McDonald became secretary in July after Eric Shinseki resigned, apologizing for a scandal in which employees throughout the VA’s massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care.
Bozeman man charged with arranging sex with 6-year-old
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A 34-year-old Bozeman man is charged with trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 6-year-old girl.
Patrick Lee Gonzales was charged with attempted sexual assault during a Justice Court appearance on Monday. He did not enter a plea and posted a $50,000 bond.
Prosecutors say a woman who et Gonzales on a social networking site became suspicious that he was involved in a group that molests children.
The woman allowed a Bozeman police detective to take over her account and contact Gonzales. Court records say the detective found stored conversations in which Gonzales said he sexually molests children.
The detective offered to allow Gonzales to molest a 6-year-old girl.
Gonzales was arrested when he arrived at the meeting place Friday. He told officers his online conversations were just fantasy and he did not intend to assault the child.
Body of 3rd member of missing fishing party found in Montana
CUT BANK, Mont. (AP) — Authorities in northern Montana have recovered the body of a Canadian man, the last of three foreign tourists who were found dead after going missing during a November fishing trip.
The Glacier County sheriff’s office says a deputy spotted the body of 63-year-old Danny Heyland of Lethbridge, Alberta, while patrolling the shore at Mission Lake on Monday.
Heyland, 75-year-old Fuki Nishibayashi (FOO’-kee nish-uh-BY’-ashee) of Japan and 63-year-old Kazuhiko Hayashizaki (kah-zoo-HEE’-koh hay-YAH’-shee-zah-kee) of Canada went missing on Nov. 22. Officials said it appeared the three either went through the ice or were blown into open water.
Hayashizaki’s body was recovered Nov. 25, and Nishibayshi’s was found Feb. 17.
Polson man dies of injuries suffered in motorcycle crash
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Polson man has died of injuries he suffered in a March 20 motorcycle crash on Montana Highway 200, just east of Clearwater Junction.
Missoula County Coroner Rob Taylor tells the Missoulian that 52-year-old Dino Ray Combs suffered a spinal fracture that made him unable to breathe on his own. He died at a Missoula hospital on March 28.
The Montana Highway Patrol says a deer ran out in front of Combs and he was unable to avoid striking it, causing the crash.