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Bear Trap Canyon fire

Bear Trap Canyon fire suspected to have been started with fireworks.

VIRGINIA CITY — A jury has acquitted a Billings man of arson after he started a wildfire that scorched more than 24 square miles in southwestern Montana.

The Madison County jury took less than an hour Wednesday to return a not guilty verdict for Kyler Schmitz.

The blaze started after Schmitz lit fireworks during a camping trip June 24 at the Bear Trap campground.

Court documents say the blaze cost more than $1.23 million to suppress and damages were more than $3.8 million.

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Deputy County Attorney Chris McConnell said Schmitz ignored the dry and windy conditions and didn't heed warnings from other campers.

Defense attorney Jack Sands said Schmitz did not knowingly, purposely or negligently start the fire. Friends said Schmitz was remorseful and took responsibility.

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