At around 3:15 Tuesday afternoon, the Missoula Fire Department and Missoula City Police officers were dispatched to a structure fire in the 900 block of Stoddard Street. Police Public Information Officer Travis Welsh explains.

“The officers were en route to provide scene security for the fire department as they made initial attack on the fire,” Welsh said. “One of the responding officers was traveling northbound over the Scott Street overpass when he observed a female he recognized as 23-year-old Erin Betts running southbound over the Scott Street overpass. Soon after that, another officer advised that the residence on fire belonged to the Betts family.”

Court documents indicate Betts had not been allowed at her parent’s home and had been criminally trespassed. Officers immediately began looking for Betts and eventually located her at the Poverello Center.

“The first officer on scene noted that Ms. Betts smelled strongly of gasoline and appeared to have recently singed hair,” Welsh said. “Ms. Betts agreed to accompany the officer to the Missoula Police Department where she was interviewed and subsequently arrested for arson. She is also being held for a charge of aggravated animal cruelty because it appears that two family pets were in the house at the time of the fire and they are both deceased.”

Officers were informed by the fire investigator that two dogs belonging to Betts’ parents had perished in the fire. The house was engulfed in flames and the damage is expected to be a total loss. During the interview with police, Betts screamed that she had dreams about burning down the police department.

Betts was charged with felony arson and two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty.

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