Schweitzer Tours Fire Site in Downtown Miles City

By Beacon Staff

MILES CITY – Fire destroyed at least four businesses and damaged others Monday as it raged through a block of historic buildings on Main Street in Miles City.

Mayor Joe Whalen said he expected firefighters from Miles City, Custer County, Glendive, Baker, Forsyth and Terry would be battling through the night to save two remaining businesses, John Stockhill Jewelers and Big Sky Pharmacy.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer toured the fire scene about 2:15 p.m. and offered use of the National Guard; but the mayor said he hopes it won’t be necessary.

“I think we’ll be OK if it stays confined to that one block,” Whalen told The Billings Gazette, which reported the governor’s visit on its Web site.

Among Main Street businesses destroyed were the Cellar Casino, Family Floral, Copper Thimble, a fabric store, and Good Things, a novelty and housewares store.

A bar under construction was also destroyed.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire has not been determined.

“There is an ungodly amount of thick, black smoke,” Whelan said.

Most of the buildings in the area, including City Hall, were evacuated because of the poor air quality.

A block to the west, patrons of the Montana Bar leaned against a brass rail in the tavern’s Main Street window drinking Budweiser and watching firefighters dump thousands of gallons of water on the fire.

“We heard a couple walls fall down,” said Jason Gierke, who had been watching the disaster for several hours. “It sounded like thunder.”

Several dozen people watched the scene from outside the Bison Bar, but the bone-chilling wind chased them back indoors.

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