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HELENA (AP) – Damage is estimated at $300,000 from the fire that struck the century-old Kessler mansion Friday on the west edge of Helena, Fire Marshal Craig Trapp said.

The fire began in a nearby barn when the 10-year-old son of Joel and Dusti Johnson, who were renting the three-story house, set off a smoke bomb, Trapp said.

Firefighters from several volunteer departments joined the Helena Fire Department in putting out the fire.

Owners Jim and Mary George said they did not know if the house can be restored. They bought it 20 years ago.

“We kept it as kind of a landmark for Helena,” Jim George said.

“You should have seen the parquet flooring on the second floor. I think they had a carpenter live here for about a year, cutting each individual piece and installing it … I don’t know if anyone even does that kind of work anymore.

“But this house has gone through earthquakes, a flood and, I believe, even a fire before. I’m not sure what we’ll do with it now.”

It was the home of German immigrant Nicholas Kessler, who arrived in Helena in 1864 and who helped build the Helena brewery that came to bear his name. A book about historic homes in Helena says the original house was built about 140 years ago, damaged, and then was rebuilt and enlarged in 1901.

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