BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone County officials on Thursday carried four bodies from a mobile home in southeastern Montana that was destroyed by an early morning fire.
The bodies were taken to waiting funeral vans after a long afternoon in which relatives and friends stood outside the taped-off property in Lockwood waiting for answers, the Billings Gazette reported on its website.
Autopsies were planned for Friday, said Yellowstone County sheriff’s Capt. Bill Michaelis. The victims’ names will not be released until families are notified, he said.
The fire was reported just after 4 a.m. by a person who reported hearing “fire noises,” Michaelis told KULR-TV.
Seventeen firefighters arrived at the scene to find the mobile home in flames in the small town about five miles northeast of Billings.
They extinguished the blaze, but it was only six hours later — and after obtaining a search warrant — that they could enter the home and discover there were people inside, Michaelis said.
Officials declined to identify the victims or say how they died.
“The people that are inside are deceased. At this time I have no further information as far as who resides there,” Michaelis said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately released. Sheriff Mike Linder said authorities were treating it as a crime scene until their investigation proves otherwise.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was participating in the investigation.
Troy Donges, who lives across the street, told the Gazette his son was listening to music when he heard a loud bang. He looked out the window, saw flames and woke up his father.
Donges said he banged on the side of the trailer to test the heat and to wake up anybody who might be inside.
“I was hitting the trailer as hard as I could with my hand,” Donges said. “There was so much smoke in there, I don’t know how anybody could’ve survived. People told me every time I hit it, it sounded like a gunshot and it woke them up.”
Dale Holthues, who lives next door, said his wife called 911 while he ran to the mobile home. He tried to kick in two different doors but couldn’t get them open and received no response from inside.
“We could not get any results,” he said. “I don’t know if they were sleeping or what.”