At around 10:45 Tuesday night, Missoula Police Officers were called to assist with a fire at a residence in the 1300 block of Defoe Street. Police Public Information Officer Travis Welsh explains.

“When they were on scene, they spoke to several people who described a male leaving the residence just as flames began to erupt from the interior,” Welsh said. “They had also described hearing a male’s voice yelling just before the suspect left. As the fire department responded, MPD provided security for apparatus. At the same time, other officers were in the area looking for this male.”

According to the Missoula Fire Department, the fire was visible from several blocks away. Two evergreen trees erupted from a fully involved trailer house, shooting flames upward at over 50 feet.

Another trailer was being threatened by fire but it was quickly extinguished. Northwestern Energy was called to cut the power to the trailers as the power lines were arcing and sparking, which posed a significant electrical hazard to the firefighters. The trailers were unoccupied.

Welsh said officers soon located the male suspect and identified him as 37-year-old Billy Martin.

“Martin was not cooperative, he refused to follow instructions, refused to provide identification, and subsequently attempted to walk away from the officers who informed him that he was not free to leave and that he was being detained in relation to the arson investigation,” Welsh said. “As other officers arrived, they were able to gain control of Martin, who resisted their efforts, and got him into handcuffs.”

Witnesses later identified Martin as the person they had seen leaving the area just as the flames erupted. As a result, Martin was arrested for felony arson and resisting arrest. The property damage was in excess of $1,500.

The cause of the fire is under investigation at this time. Anyone with additional information, contact the Missoula Fire Bureau at 552-6210 during normal business hours.