Woman jailed in connection to Alberton church blaze

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Frenchtown Rural Fire District firefighters knocked down a fire in the United Methodist Church in Alberton in the early-morning hours Feb. 3. (Photo courtesy Frenchtown Rural Fire District)

A suspect in the fire that damaged a Alberton church last week is in custody.

According to court documents, Denim Howard was booked into the Sanders County Jail Feb. 3 on charges of arson, burglary (non-residence), two counts of criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools.

Defendants in Mineral County cases may be booked into facilities in Missoula, Sanders or Lake counties because Mineral County’s jail is not open due to staffing issues.

Mineral County law enforcement officials continue to investigate the fire that damaged the United Methodist Church in Alberton in the early-morning hours Monday, Feb. 3.

According to Mel Holtz of the Frenchtown Rural Fire District, firefighters were able to knock down the blaze before it spread beyond the basement. The church did have heavy smoke damage, however.

Church pastor Waveland King said he believed the person that was arrested was an Alberton resident, but he said he didn’t know who it was.

“Someone was going through something traumatic at the time and we hope the person gets the help they need,” King said. “It’s (church) a mess and we’re working through the steps to get it cleaned up, but fortunately, no one was hurt,” King said.

King said parishioners would have to attend services at the church in Superior this Sunday.

“We’ll try and get a building in the community in Alberton for future services, but it will take some time to get it cleaned up,” King said. “We’ll just take it one step at a time.”

The church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a fixture in Alberton since 1912.

“We’re lucky we got it under control and happy we could save the building,” Holtz said. “You don’t like to lose these old, historic buildings.”

The Montana State Fire Marshall investigated the scene with the Sheriff’s Office and the fire was determined to be suspicious.

No one was injured and the church was insured, according to Holtz.

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