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2 separate vehicle fires under investigation in Billings; victim believes at least one was a crime

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Posted at 5:01 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 19:45:35-04

BILLINGS- Authorities are investigating two vehicle fires in two separate areas of Billings Monday.

A Billings high school student is the victim of one of these car fires and was able to press record on his camera phone on the fire just as it started. He’s hoping perhaps there are some answers for why his vehicle was a target.

“It was, I was awestruck,” said Jaxson Martin. “I'll tell you, it was quite the mind-blowing experience.”

Martin says Monday morning he parked his car on Sixth Street West and Avenue B just above Senior High School at around 7 a.m.

“You know, it was like any other day,” he said.

But he decided to walk back and get his phone because he forgot it in his car. His timing was perfect because just as he approached his car, he noticed something wasn’t right.

“My car was smoking,” he said. “I wasn't sure what went down or how happened. I had all four of my windows rolled down, so I assume somebody flicked something in the backseat of my car.”

He says the moment was heartbreaking.

He managed to get his phone out of the burning car just in time and pressed record on his camera phone.

Billings Fire Deputy Fire Marshal Jaime Fender says Martin’s car suffered heavy damage to the interior of the vehicle with an estimated cost in damages at roughly $1000.

But later Monday evening, Fender says another vehicle fire was reported on the Billings South Side where the engine compartment and front of the cab of the vehicle suffered the most damage.

Fender says both are under investigation by firefighters. Together, the two incidents caused $7,000 worth of damages.

“You know, they don't know if it was firecrackers, matches, or whatever the case,” said Martin.

Billings Police Capt. Neil Lawrence said he believes one of the two fires was accidental, although he did not clarify to Q2 News which one. The other was not referred to police to conduct their investigation, he said.

Either way, it’s a loss for him. He says the next day the car was towed to the junkyard.

“You know, I put a lot of my own money into that car, and then watching it burn was a devastating moment, for sure,” he said.

He now wants others to know to be vigilant as police and fire officials investigate these vehicle fires, just in case someone is intentionally starting them.