A 19-year-old East Helena man who was charged with setting numerous fires in the Helena area in May has pleaded guilty to two counts of arson.
Fredrick J. Maw V entered his Alford pleas in District Court in Helena on Thursday, telling the judge he doesn’t remember what happened. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction.
The 20 fires were set in the Priest Pass area May 10, the McMaster Ranch area of the Spokane Hills May 14 and the York-Nelson area May 15.
Maw was arrested after he was found at the York-Nelson scene in full firefighting gear, holding a trigger-operated lighter. After initially claiming to be a contract firefighter, he confessed to starting the fires, according to prosecutors.
In an interview with a detective, he suggested he wanted to then fight the fires, because of the camaraderie of firefighting and his desire for a financial payoff, according to prosecutors.
The U.S. Forest Service has estimated the costs of fighting the fires at more than $1 million.
Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher says he will recommend Maw be sentenced to 40 years in prison with 30 suspended. Sentencing is set for Feb. 14.