About 300 to 400 pieces of mail were damaged and two parcels were destroyed when a U.S. Postal Service truck caught fire on Monday afternoon in Billings Heights.
Most of that mail is salvageable, said Sally Tuomi, the marketing manager for the Big Sky District of the U.S. Postal Service. Most of the fire-damaged and salvageable mail was advertising and bulk business mail, she added.
The cause of the fire is believed to be an overheated engine and a motor fluid leak, but the postal service is still investigating, Tuomi said.
Mail carrier Jesse Slevira said he was delivering mail on White Circle at about 1 p.m. when his truck stopped.
“There's a trail of oil, and the engine started smoking,” Slevira said. “So I called vehicle maintenance.”
Slevira said his supervisor put him on the list for assistance. In the meantime, he grabbed mail for the neighboring homes and began to deliver on foot.
That's when he heard a man shout that his mail truck was on fire.
“My bag was by the door with my cell phone in it, so I grabbed it right away,” said Slevira, who was not even halfway through his route.
He and a nearby resident started shoveling snow on the truck to try to extinguish the flames that had already spread from the engine to the dashboard area of the truck.
Firefighters from Billings Fire Department Station 6 arrived and put out the fire.
Slevira said this is the first time that he's ever had anything like this happen in 37 years of delivering the mail.
He was able to get a lot of the mail out of the truck, and much of it was salvageable, Tuomi said.
It will be dried out over the next day or two, then delivered in a bag with a note explaining the cause of the damage.
Tuomi asked that customers give the Postal Service a couple of days to get the damaged mail out.
If customers expecting mail on the following streets think they may have lost mail, they may call the Billings Consumer Affairs department at 657-5776.
The streets affected by the mail truck fire include: 900 block and up of Nutter, Erickson, Crystal Lake, Butterfly Lane, Lonesome Pine, Claim Jumper, Hardrock, Mirror Lake, Shamrock Court, Lilly Valley, Aster, Jonquil, Goldpan, Sapphire, Nugget, Calendula and Grubstake.
Contact Chelsea Krotzer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1392.