By Alan Sorensen
HARLEM -- Three fires that caused extensive damage at Harlem this fall may or may not have been set by a single arsonist. And that's just what officers with the Harlem Police and Blaine County Sheriff's departments are trying to determine.
Montana Fire Marshal Bob Nieuwenhuyse of Havre said in late November that city and county officials were pursuing a "very intense investigation" of at least three recent fires in Harlem.
Observation platforms at the Harlem varsity and practice fields burned to the ground in October, taking scoreboard, public address system and stored practice gear with them.
Then, on Nov. 18, the old Harlem News building burned to the ground. Lost in that blaze were about $30,000 worth of Olson Ford storage items including computer equipment, bumpers, tires and windshields.
The Harlem News fire was reportedly discovered at about 1 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, and was extinguished by firefighters from Harlem, Fort Belknap and Chinook. The Blaine County Journal reported that damage to the adjoining building, Olson Ford, was limited to melted siding.
The Journal also reported that history buffs were moaning the loss of one of the building's walls in which bullets reportedly fired by Kid Curry during the Harlem Bank robbery about a century ago were embedded.
Nieuwenhuyse said the fires are being investigated as possible arson by Harlem Police and Blaine County Sheriff's offices.
Harlem Police Officer Josh Rutherford said Wednesday that his office is investigating the Harlem News and practice field fires. He said that the Wildcats home field is outside the city limits and falls under the county's jurisdiction.
"Right now, we're trying to determine if they are related," Rutherford said. "It's undetermined right now."
Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis said Thursday that his department's investigation has slowed but is still moving forward.
"We're still interviewing some witnesses for names that have come up, nothing concrete yet," Huestis said. "Still, a few names are coming up, so (deputies) are talking with them."