The 100-year-old Chinook home of singer Ken Overcast was destroyed in a fire early Friday morning.
Fire Chief Kraig Hansen said firefighters were summoned to the home, on Stockyard Road, about one mile south of U.S. Highway 2, at about 4 a.m.
The fire was spotted by a passing Burlington Northern Santa Fe train.
“When we got there, the roof and the second story had collapsed into the first floor,” Hansen said. “It had been going for some time.”
Hansen said there were some tense moments, because firefighters didn’t know if Overcast and his family were at home.
But they were soon informed that the well-known entertainer was in Billings.
“That was a big relief,” Hansen said.
Because the fire was so intense, and there was no chance of saving the structure, firefighters backed off, he said.
“When I went into what was the living room, I could look up and see the stars,” Hansen said. “I have never seen a fire that bad.”
“It was a real shame,” Hansen said. “He had a lot of musical instruments in there.”
Overcast is staying with family members, he said.
He said about a dozen Chinook firefighters were on the scene, assisted by Harlem firefighters, who brought two trucks with them.
Overcast said all of the records for his ranching business and his entertainment business were destroyed, as were lot of family mementos.
“I was the family archivist,” he said.
Among those item destroyed were recordings of this week’s syndicated radio program.
The program is broadcast on about 60 stations nationwide, he said.
“I can’t even call the affiliates and tell them,” he said. “The list was destroyed in the fire. Some of them I remember, some I don’t.”
But Overcast said he was happy that the fire happened when it did.
“On Thursday night, my daughter, her husband and eight kids were there,” he said. “I know we all wouldn’t have gotten out.”
He said he was in Billings when he got a call at 4:30 a.m.
“You know it’s not good news when you get a call at that time,” he said. “But at least it was just a fire at the house. No one died.”
He said he is living with his son until other arrangements can be made.
The Chinook community has rallied to help, he said.
Several people have offered him homes to stay in, he said.
“Somebody stopped me on the street and said ‘I have my checkbook here, how much do you need?’” he said.
“It’s great living in a small town when something like this happens.”
Overcast said investigators were on the scene this morning. The extent of the damage makes it difficult to determine the cause, he said.
“We figure it must be something electrical,” he said.