Montana Casino Deadly Fire Closes Venue, Arson Ruled Out as Cause

Posted on: April 22, 2022, 06:50h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2022, 11:35h.

A Montana gaming site blaze that left two people dead on Wednesday forced the venue, Honest Toms Saloon & Casino, to close. It appears the fire was not intentionally set.

Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan
Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan, pictured above. He said a deadly casino fire in Montana was not believed to have been set. (Image: KTVQ)

As of Friday, investigators continued to search for the cause of the blaze.

Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan identified the victims as Marla Murray, 71, and John Ahles, 33, the Associated Press reported. Murray was a casino employee. Ahles was a customer.

The two victims were alone in the building during the fire. They died at the scene. The victims will undergo autopsies. Both resided in Bridger, the same community in which the casino is located.

The small building was described by McQuillan as a “total loss” because of smoke damage, the AP added. According to an online listing, Honest Toms was permanently closed by its owners following the fire.

Under Investigation

Police were initially notified about the fire at about 9:30 am Wednesday, KTVQ, a local TV station, reported. Bridger Police Chief Mike Buechler found smoke billowing out of the front door upon his arrival.

He yelled out to see if anyone was inside, but no one answered. He was able to open a screen door. He could only see a couple of feet inside due to the smoke.

Multiple fire departments responded to the fire. They were able to bring the fire under control in about a half-hour. The State Fire Marshal’s office, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, the Montana Department of Criminal Investigations, and Bridger Police are jointly investigating the fire.

The casino is located on the main thoroughfare through the southern Montana town. Bridger is a small community located about 47 miles south of Billings, Montana.

Earlier Casino Fires

Last month, a slot machine at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort in Rhode Island caught fire. The March 8 fire was caused by a machine malfunction. It was quickly contained to the casino floor. The blaze did not cause any significant damage, nor was anyone injured.

In an earlier incident, Resorts World Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip was the site of a fire last June. It took place before the property’s grand reopening. The blaze broke out in a storage area.