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Grass fire damages buildings
BOB ZELLAR/Gazette staff Firefighters battle a tough blaze in a garage at Poly Drive and Virginia Lane.

Gazette Staff

Two buildings were damaged Wednesday by a blaze that was initially reported as a grass fire.

The fire at 2414 Virginia Lane, on the southwestern corner of Poly Avenue near Grandview Boulevard, caused an estimated $75,000 damage, said Assistant Fire Marshal Ted Warren. The owners, Donald and Carol Lee, are insured, he said.

Billings Fire Department crews stopped the fire before it spread to the main residence, a large brick building that is not visible from the street because of a hedge of mature trees.

Warren said the fire was exacerbated by the large amount of fluffy seeds from the many cottonwood trees in the area. The fire spread through trees and brush. It damaged two buildings and their contents. The origin and cause of the fire are still being investigated.

There were 28 firefighters involved in extinguishing the blaze. Crews were on the scene more than four hours. Standby crews, including a battalion chief, were called in so firefighters working on the blaze would not have to leave.

One firefighter was slightly injured when he fell from a ladder.

The intersection of Poly Avenue and Virginia Lane was closed while a fire hose was stretched across Virginia Lane. Several people drove over the 5-inch hose before officials closed the south side of the intersection, fire officials said.

Cottonwood-tree seeds, which resemble wisps of cotton, are extremely flammable and easily blown by the wind, Warren said.