BILLINGS — One of the vehicle fires Sunday night left one Billings man with a destroyed Honda CRV and very little belongings, as the car was his current home.
Chantz Larson was attending a drug-treatment recovery meeting Sunday at the HRDC. His car was parked in the parking lot with his two dogs inside.
“I went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting because I think I’m five days clean today,” Larson said on Tuesday.
Someone ran inside the meeting to tell people that there was a vehicle on fire.
“I ran out. It was indeed my car,” he said.
Larson said his car went up in flames in a matter of seconds, only allowing him to grab a few important items. Other items, including his drywall tools for his construction work, were destroyed.
“Everything else, it's replaceable. The dogs, they are not,” said Larson, who owns a contracting company and recently started living in his vehicle.
Larson's two dogs, Zeus and Lucifer, were inside the vehicle at the time the fire started. Larson was able to get a back window open to help the dogs escape uninjured. He also was able to grab his mother's ashes.
Larson said his friends have been helping him get back on his feet after losing so much. He plans to purchase an RV at the end of the week, so he and his dogs have a place to stay.
According to the fire marshal, the damages for Larson total $4,000.
Larson feared that the fire may have been set by someone from his past.
“When you’re in active addiction, you tend to piss people off. And then drug addicts do what drug addicts do: excessive violence,” he said.
Larson's vehicle fire was one of three in Billings that night. Two vans were set fire in the Billings Senior High School parking lot less than an hour before Larson's report, but police don't believe they are related.
Police say the Senior High fires were a gas theft gone wrong. Both fires were under investigation Tuesday, and no arrests have been made. Police are still waiting for the Billings fire marshal's investigation to be complete to know how Larson's vehicle caught fire.
The vans at Senior High were destroyed. The fire marshal estimates the damage totals $20,000. The vans were for the special education students to get to vocational training opportunities.
“This is a really big impact,” said Josh Beeman, the Senior High special education department head. “Hopefully we can get something figured out in the interim that helps these guys get a little experience.”
Billings School District 2 plans to have rental vans this week to resume getting the students to job and volunteer experiences.