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Missoula Senior Center getting back on its feet after arson fire

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jan 06 2014 06:39:45 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 06 2014 06:54:34 PM MST

The fire caused $100,000 damage when an arsonist set it last April.

Birch David Bergeson is accused of the crime.

He faced a Missoula judge Monday.

MISSOULA, Mont. -

A man accused of arson, after allegedly lighting a fire that burned the Missoula Senior Center faced a judge Monday.

Court records said Birch David Bergeson allegedly lit the center on fire in early April of last year.

Authorities arrested Bergeson after they obtained surveillance video showing him near the center when the fire started.

Court records said Bergeson admitted to one woman that he started the fire.

For the Missoula Senior Center, it's been a difficult nine months.

There's a new red door and the wall outside the center is freshly painted. It's a big improvement over what it looked like that scary morning last April.

The center's executive administrator Michelle Hastings remembers getting the call about 6 a.m.

"I remember feeling helpless, just watching that happen to this building where we do such a wonderful service," said Hastings.

The main floor was closed for six days.

Inside, the center looks good today. But there's still work left to do.

The fire made everybody nervous.

"Our seniors feel like they had been violated," said the director.

Massive work went into getting the thrift center downstairs up and going. The thrift store brings in $600 to $800 a week to the nonprofit center. It's hugely important to the senior center's financial wellbeing.

Smoke did massive damage to inventory in the thrift store. Almost all the inventory had to be scrapped.

The store was closed for six weeks. But donations are coming in strong.

The staff and volunteers are all going through a fire safety training course.