Someone may have gotten more than they bargained for Tuesday after an apparent lit firecracker set a cluster of Juniper bushes ablaze in front of Sports Authority, eventually melting a portion of the front signage area of the store.
Billings Fire Department responded with three engines to the store-front blaze at Sports Authority on 24th Street at around 9:50 p.m. Tuesday, where they found flames coming from the face of the building.
Battalion Chief Larry Hart said it could've been a lot worse, but there was an engine nearby at the time, so they were able to respond quickly.
There were no flames visible at 10 p.m., but smoke was still smoldering from inside the building and firefighters were working to make sure the blaze was out.
Meanwhile, several police officers responded to the area where a group of young people were gathering to maintain order and interview apparent witnesses who were there.
Both Hart and Billing Police Sgt. David Cardillo said the fire was started by lit fireworks. Cardillo said they had multiple people pointing fingers at each other. He estimated that he heard between 50 and 60 names.
He said that if they find out it was intentional, it would be considered arson.
Nobody was hurt, and the scene cleared out by 11:30 p.m.
A press release later indicated that the fire caused $500,000 worth of damage and that the interior of the building sustained smoke damage.
The manager of Sports Authority, who was in the parking lot with a group of employees, directed comment to their corporate office. The press release stated the building was occupied at the time.
The fire is still under investigation.