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Montana family dealing with 'unique circumstances' after apartment fire

Fire Belongings
Posted at 8:18 AM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 10:18:24-05

BILLINGS - A young Billings couple lost nearly everything they own to an apartment fire a couple weeks ago, and they are still trying to pick up the pieces.

When Tyler Childers randomly woke up to use the bathroom in his residence a few weeks ago, he instantly knew something was wrong.

“I kind of smelled something weird, and it was noticeably warmer than it should be," Childers told MTN Monday morning. "I walked out to the living room and saw the living room was on fire.”

Without hesitation, the 21-year-old woke up his girlfriend, Emmalynn Dotson, and the couple climbed out of their bedroom window to escape the flames.

“The fire had blocked out the front door, so we had to go out through the window,” Childers said.

They managed to escape their apartment safely, but Dotson knows that on a different night that could have been much more difficult. Her nearly three-year-old daughter Hunter Lynn has special needs. Fortunately, she was staying with her biological father on the night of the fire.


“If she had been here, it would have been a completely different story because she’s on oxygen. She has a bunch of different medical equipment," Dotson said. "It would have been a disaster had she been here that night."

The family believes that the fire was caused by a faulty wall outlet, but the Billings Fire Department is still investigating. Still, the inside of the couple's apartment is unrecognizable, and they wound up losing just about everything they own.

Wall outlet

The couple said returning to their apartment and walking around their burnt belongings was an emotionally jarring experience.

“I think that part didn’t hit us until after the adrenaline had wore off a little bit," Childers said. "It’s just stress. And I mean it's stuff, but there was also a lot of sentimental stuff. You know, stuff we can’t replace."

The family has been staying at Dotson's parents since the fire, and both said they are feeling fortunate to be alive. A GoFundMe page has been organized to help the family as they continue to try and navigate the stressors of their unique situation.

“Especially with having a special needs daughter, it’s trying not to go into major debt, trying to replace everything, and also stay kind of on top of everything,” Dotson said.