Posted: Apr 29, 2013 3:34 PM by KBZK
VIRGINIA CITY - A trial got underway today for a man accused of starting the Bear Trap 2 Fire west of Bozeman last summer.
Kyler Schmitz is charged with multiple felony counts. A jury was selected and opening statements were heard in the Virginia City courtroom today.
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.
Prosecutors claim Schmitz knew what he was doing on that hot, windy day when he lit off the fireworks, but his defense attorney says he had no criminal intent during the incident and that he expressed remorse and wanted to help fight the blaze.
The fire consumed more than 15,000 acres and cost more than $1.2 million.
The trial is expected to last three days.