MT- Fire officials in Butte say an Easter Sunday fire that sent a priest to the hospital with serious burns could have been avoided. The fire which destroyed a four-plex on Maryland Street was caused by a gas leak.

Butte-Silver Bow Fire Marshall John Lasky says pastor Jim McCarthy, 71, lit a cigarette in his bathroom which ignited the gas, causing an explosion. Lasky adds that if neighbors had reported the smell of gas the evening before the explosion, that fire could have been prevented.

“I had people reporting that they could smell gas the day before the fire somewhere around five in the afternoon. Other people who had walked by the night before the fire could smell gas and unfortunately no one called those into anybody. NorthWestern Energy wasn’t notified, the Fire Department wasn’t notified so the gas ran unchecked for a while down here.”

Lasky says natural gas is dangerous and people should report any gas odor immediately. He also advises that when there’s a gas leak people should avoid turning on any appliances or switches, because they may trigger a spark.

McCarthy sustained burns in the fire and after being sent to St. James Healthcare in Butte, he was transported to a burn center in Salt Lake City.

The fire broke out directly behind Butte Central Catholic Grade School and because of some major smoke damage school principal Carol Trudnowski tells us classes are canceled until Thursday.

Based on the initial damage investigation of the school building, the facility incurred a serious level of smoke damage on the first and second floors and wasdeemed unsafe for school operations.

A disaster restoration crew will occupy the building through Wednesday to take care of the smoke damage.