Missoula Rural Fire investigators have determined that the fatal house fire on Saturday was accidental in nature, and of as yet undetermined origin. Lead investigator Tom Ziegler says it appears the fire started on the deck of the modular home near a propane grill. He says the fire moved from the deck into the home and rapidly burned the entire structure. Missoula Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Jason Johnson has identified the victim as Stephen Steadele, whose birth date was given as December 30th, 1951, making him 61 years old.

Ziegler says both Mr. Steadele and woman who had been renting the home made it out safely, then Mr. Steadele made the decision to go back into the burning home to retrieve a set of keys. Ziegler says Steadele collapsed as he was overcome by smoke and his body was found near a window inside the home. Ziegler says it is important that once an individual safely exits a burning structure, to never try to re-enter the structure for any reason. Investigators say the home is a total loss. Ziegler says Missoula Rural Fire has wrapped up its investigation, and now the insurance company may want to have their specialized fire labs look deeper into the cause of the fire.

Missoula Rural Fire Investigator Tom Ziegler

Missoula Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jason Johnson