A burglar armed with a blowtorch and a bit of moxie cut his way to a small fortune at the expense of a western Montana bank late last month.

An automatic teller machine of Ravalli County Bank in Hamilton, Mont., was stripped of several thousand dollars when a burglar cut his way into the small building housing it, and plundered a safe. The building does not include a full branch.

The burglar used the blowtorch to cut through the bottom half of the back door of the ATM and then crawled into the building without setting off an alarm.

The torch apparently was used again, as the hinges on the safe inside the building were removed. An alarm sounded when the safe door was opened, but the thief grabbed several canisters of money and escaped before police arrived. The exact amount taken was not disclosed.

The burglary was the second attempt on the ATM in less than two weeks. On May 11, the lock on the back door was cut off, but the alarm sounded when the door was opened. Nothing was taken in that incident.

Dave Hardy, Ravalli County Bank's security officer, said he has taken action to prevent a recurrence but declined to detail the specifics. He said he has not heard of any other similar burglaries in the area.

Ravalli County Bank is 101 years old and has more than $75 million in assets. Hamilton is about 50 miles south of Missoula.

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