Breese sentenced for impersonation
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POLSON — A Polson man was committed at District Court in Polson on Nov. 3 to the Montana Department of Corrections for three years with all that time suspended for impersonating a public servant during the Boulder 2700 fire on Aug. 1, 2021. In addition, Donald Stephen Breese, 49, was sentenced to a six-month jail term with all but 30 days suspended on a misdemeanor obstruction charge. The sentences will run concurrent to each other.
Breese entered a plea of guilty to the charges at District Court in Polson on July 28. At the time, Breese’s attorney, Scott Hilderman of Kalispell, told Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher that his client intended to enter a “no contest” plea, but the judge said that is not good enough and wanted Breese to admit what he did, thus the guilty plea was entered.
According to charging documents, on Aug. 1, 2021, a Lake County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of someone impersonating a firefighter at the Finley Point Fire Hall. Witnesses told the deputy that a man, later identified as Breese, drove to the fire hall wearing green Nomex pants, a shirt bearing the Missoula Fire Lab insignia and portable radio equipped with a harness. At one point the man claimed to be incident commander and head of the forest service.
The man was able to gain access to the fire area during the early stages of the fire as homes were being destroyed.
It was later determined that Breese was not with the Missoula Fire Lab, nor a part of any other fire agency.
Deputies with the Lake County Sheriff’s office executed a search warrant at Breese’s Polson residence Aug. 4, 2021 and located the Nomex pants, and other firefighting gear. Photos taken in the early stages of the Boulder 2700 fire were also recovered from the home.
This is not the first time Breese has lied about his background. According to a story published Sept. 15, 2010 by The Star Ledger, Breese got a job “overseeing safety and explosive operations while passing himself off as a combat veteran and member of an elite group of military experts trained to disarm and dispose of bombs” at two military installations in New Jersey. He was convicted of falsifying his resume to get that job according to that published article. The article also indicated that Breese was given three years of supervised release after having served four months in prison.
It was that past incident that caused Judge Christopher to insist on some jail time on these charges. The initial plea agreement offered no actual jail time.
Fourteen homes and 17 outbuildings were destroyed in that fire according to Mark Clary, director of Lake County’s Office of Emergency Management.