Burned Asarco house to be used for bomb, fire training

Eve Byron, Excerpt from the Helena Independent Record

A Lewis and Clark County bomb squad will use what’s left of the former Asarco manager’s house in East Helena for a training exercise next week.

The bombings will be followed by a “live fire” exercise for the city of East Helena Volunteer Fire Department, which will reduce any of the remaining structures to ash by May 11.

Sheriff Leo Dutton said both the blasts and burns will provide great hands-on training.

“This is a unique practice opportunity,” Dutton said. “It’s kind of sad to see it all come to an end out there, but hopefully it will end up a cleaner and safer place.”

The manager’s house, which was a historic Victorian-era mansion, sat in the shadow of the Asarco slag pile. It was owned by the Montana Environmental Trust, which took title to it as part of the bankruptcy settlement with Asarco after it closed the century-old lead smelter in 2001. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the trust is tasked with management, cleaning up and possible redevelopment of the former Asarco property to benefit Montana and the United States.

Initially, the trust planned to relocate the manager’s house as part of the site cleanup, with the hope that a community group would restore and preserve the once-elegant home. However, last August downed powerlines were fanned by high winds near the 124-year-old home and burned most of the home to the ground.

However, a guesthouse, two garages, an outhouse and a shed remained standing, and those will be used for the training.

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