Bright orange flames could be seen by Jason Ives and his three children, who chased fire trucks from their home at West 58th Street and Grand Avenue to a blaze that burned in the general store of Oscar’s Park at 3740 Wise Lane.
“We were playing ball in the front yard,” Ives said.
After seeing a firetruck pass the house, he and his three children, Caleb, 14, Alexis, 10, and Carson, 5, hopped in the car.
“If we hear more than one firetruck, we go,” he said. “That means there’s usually something going on.”
By the time they arrived, flames were licking up the front facade of the building.
The call came in at 7:06, said Battalion Chief Boyd Vopel.
Four engines, one truck, two tender trucks along with the battalion chief were able to knock the fire down in about an hour. Vopel said the big response was due to a lack of water supply in the area. The store was not hooked up to utility service.
There was no one on the property at the time except for one animal, said Oscar’s Park owner Marcie Limpp. After calling authorities, a neighbor called Limpp.
“They called and I screamed, ‘Get the donkey!’ ” she said.
Crackles the donkey, an Easter present for Limpp’s granddaughter, had only lived on the property for one day.
Oscar’s Park is rented out for special events from late April to the middle of October. About 30 weddings are held at the park annually. The structure’s destruction will not impact events held on the grounds, Limpp said.
Several buildings now on the property had been collected from towns all over Montana by Limpp’s father, Oscar Cooke, who died in 1995. The general store was moved to the property in the 1970s from Nibbe, a town near Pompeys Pillar, she said.
While some structures on the property were insured, the store was not.
"You can't afford to insure everything," Limpp said. "We'd have to sell the property to insure it."
Many antiques were inside, but she said it's too early to tell whether anything is salvageable. The interior was being remodeled to accommodate Limpp's daughter and granddaughter, like her father did for her.
"I lived in the general store when I was in college," she said. "We were kind of following in family footsteps to have our daughter live out here."