A carport fire on Rex Lane near Bench Elementary destroyed two vehicles Thursday night, charring the structure’s roof, rafters and back wall in the process.
The Billings Fire Department responded to the fire a little before 7 p.m. with four engines and 14 firefighters, Battalion Chief Dave Gilbert said.
Deputy Fire Marshal Jamie Fender estimated the fire caused $80,000 in damages to the garage and vehicles. The property was insured, he said.
The fire started under the hood of a vehicle and was determined to accidental, Fender said in a news release.
Although the carport’s location — situated in an alleyway behind a Rex Lane apartment building west of the school — posed logistical challenges because of its lack of water access, Gilbert said the first truck that arrived substantially cut the fire down.
“When they got there, the whole thing was on fire,” he said. “The first engine did a great job knocking down the fire.”
Gilbert said firefighters assumed a defensive fighting position at first and then transitioned to an offensive one, moving inside the carport to hose down the cars.
Sarah Sloan, 30, whose 2008 Volkswagen Jetta was destroyed in the fire, said she was inside her apartment with her 7-year-old son when a neighbor banged on her door and told her about the blaze.
Sloan, who has lived in the apartment since May and has had the car for about 3 years, said she immediately called her sister, who came rushing to the scene.
A neighbor, Don Jackson, 58, said he heard two explosions and went outside.
“It was a big bonfire, I’ll tell you that,” Jackson said.
When Sloan went outside, she watched her Jetta, which appeared to have only slight damage at first, get destroyed.
As firefighters bashed the car window to get to an ember inside, she looked on with tears.
Although it was upsetting, Sloan was understanding.
She said the car was either going to be destroyed in the fire or destroyed in the process of preventing the fire from spreading.
“It was going to happen one way or another,” she said.
Sloan said she is insured and that she was unsure of the process going forward.
Gilbert said nobody was hurt.
Jackson, who identified himself as a retired city employee, commended the firefighters’ efforts.
“The Billings Fire Department did a helluva job,” he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.