Brittney Henderson stepped out of her recently bought home in Laurel’s King Avenue Estates on Thursday at about 2:30 p.m. to run an errand.
With her kids in the car, it was supposed to be just a quick trip to the grocery store — just another ordinary day.
Fifteen minutes later, her phone rang. It was her neighbor, calling to let her know that smoke and fire had been spotted billowing from her house.
Henderson’s heart broke. She panicked. She called her husband, Tim, an air traffic controller at Billings Logan International Airport whose work week had just begun.
After a couple days off, Tim had only been at work for about 20 minutes when he got the call.
As his wife told him the bad news, he said he thought to himself, “I hope it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
“It was worse,” he said.
The Laurel Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call a little before 3 p.m. with 15 firefighters, two engines, two tenders and two commander vehicles. No one was injured in the fire.
The Billings Fire Department also responded with seven firefighters, a tender, an engine and a commander vehicle, according to Laurel Fire Chief Brent Peters.
Despite their efforts, the flames destroyed the home, which sat on the 600 block of Kenya Street, leaving Brittney, Tim and their three young kids devastated.
The Hendersons bought the house a little more than a year ago.
They had the house built after moving from Utah for Tim’s job at the airport. It was the first house they ever owned together.
He said they had insurance, but all the money in the world couldn’t replace some of their belongings.
“The hard things are the home videos and pictures; everything else can be replaced,” Tim said.
Brittney said the blaze destroyed their 5-year-old son’s favorite blanket.
“My 5-year-old is devastated,” she said, fighting tears.
It also demolished Brittney’s business, a salon she said she ran out of the home.
The home’s location presented some challenges for the Laurel Fire Department, Peters said.
Because the subdivision has no fire hydrants — a common feature for neighborhoods in that area — Peters said they had to rely on a water shuttle and a dry hydrant down the road for water.
Peters said one shuttle would fill up at the Yellowstone Boys and Girl Ranch while another filled up using the dry hydrant. If there were hydrants, he said, there would have been a steady water supply.
Peters couldn’t specify a cause or origin of the fire. He said Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office would be taking over the investigation.
“We’re investigating it as a fire, that’s all we know,” said Sgt. Dan Paris of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to the Henderson’s home, a neighbor’s home also sustained heat damage, melting a small portion of the siding, Peters said.
Meanwhile, the Hendersons are trying to stay positive.
As Tim watched his house burn from across the street, his truck sat in the driveway, mere feet from the flames.
“That was my favorite truck,” he said, “My wife’s happy, though. She hated that thing,” he joked.
Brittney and Tim said they couldn’t ask for more supportive neighbors.
They said their neighbors have offered up their homes, clothes, food and other supplies.
“It’s just rebuilding at this point,” Tim said.