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Fort Harrison fire

An undetermined amount of damage was done to one of the mess halls at Fort Harrison by a fire on Wednesday night that was possibly caused by an electrical fixture.

HELENA -- A Wednesday night fire, possibly caused by a malfunctioning electrical fixture, did an undetermined amount of damage in a mess hall at Fort Harrison.

According to 2nd Lt. Dan Bushnell, the exact amount of damages has not been determined, but the building is not a complete loss. He said the kitchen is still fairly intact, though it suffered some water damage.

Bushnell said the fire was discovered at 11:38 p.m. Wednesday when a security guard doing a routine inspection noticed smoke. Bushnell said the guard immediately called 911.

The Veterans Administration fire department arrived on the scene within about five minutes, and the initial knockdown of the fire was completed by 2:15 a.m. Bushnell said the crews stuck around until nearly 5 a.m. to check for hot spots and make sure that the fire was completely put out.

Bushnell said Alan Lorenz, the state fire marshal, and Sgt. Dave Peterson, the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Department's investigations supervisor, completed the investigation on Thursday morning.

Bushnell said the fire began with a mechanical problem with an electrical fixture in a bathroom in the northwestern corner of the mess hall. Since there are four other mess halls on the base, the damage won't affect the service that the hall provided, he said.

"It's not going to impede our ability to train soldiers," he said.

He said two of the other mess halls were recently renovated. Chris Denning, who works with the base's facilities office, said similar renovation plans were 90 percent complete for the mess hall that burned.

Denning said it was the first structure fire on any base statewide in the 25 years that he's been at Fort Harrison.