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The cause of the fire that gutted the Laurel Auto Parts store remained under investigation as of Friday afternoon.

Laurel Fire Marshal Gary Colley said he had narrowed down the possible location of the fire's origin to the back of the store. He predicted it would take several more days before the exact cause is pinpointed.

The fire, which was reported on Thursday just after 7:30 p.m., caused an estimated $250,000 to $275,000 in damage to the building, which is insured, Colley said. He didn’t have an estimate on the value of the building's contents.

A look at the building on Friday revealed charred wood and metal in the interior. Crumbled cinder blocks sat in piles at the front of the auto parts store.

The two side walls remained standing, and part of the brick facade was intact. A cyclone fence blocked off the front of the building.

The original report of the fire came from the Billings Alarm Co., Colley said. That was followed by several other calls alerting firefighters to the blaze.

Fire Chief Brent Peters said firefighters got the fire under control by about 1:30 a.m. Friday. One engine company remained on the scene overnight and continued pouring water on smoldering hot spots on Friday morning.

Laurel police officers provided security through the night and were stationed at barricades around the area. Laurel Public Works staff also remained at the scene for assistance.

About 32 firefighters from Laurel and surrounding fire departments battled the fire. When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the rear of the building, Peters said.

The store had miscellaneous motor oils, chemicals, fluids and parts that were stored there, the chief said.

Three Laurel engine companies, along with a command and support vehicle, responded to the initial call. Mutual aid also was provided by the Billings Fire Department, which sent one engine, a ladder truck and a water tender, and the Molt Joliet and Park City fire departments, Peters said.

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General Assignment and Health Care Reporter

General assignment and healthcare reporter at The Billings Gazette.