BILLINGS – A fire that devastated three quarters of a block in downtown Miles City has been ruled an accident, investigators said Wednesday.
Capt. Kevin Quinlan, lead investigator for the Miles City Fire Department, said “there’s no evidence of criminal activity” related the March 23 blaze that affected at least 15 businesses and up to 50 local jobs.
Quinlan said the fire started in the basement wall in the back portion of a vacant building that was being converted into the Horseshoe Casino. Demolition was under way on the first and second floors when the fire started.
Lab work on the cause continues in Billings, where electrical paneling, wiring and conduit from the building are being studied. Quinlan said a final report on the fire isn’t due for another month.
Meanwhile, city planners are working with downtown businesses to rebuild on the site. Planner John Marks said there is interest in constructing buildings that complement the downtown’s brick style, but replicating the buildings lost in the blaze could prove difficult.
“Once you burn a historic building, you never gain back that historic perfection,” he said. “What you come back with is a brand new, modern building that may look like an old one and may have the charm of an old one, but it’s a brand new building.”
Mike Coryell, executive director of the Miles City Area Economic Development Corporation, said the reconstruction is an opportunity to lure commerce back to an area that had been losing ground to strip development along Interstate 90.
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