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Arson is being considered as a possible cause of a fire in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn in Missoula early Friday morning that burned several vehicles and caused at least $150,000 in damage.

The Missoula Fire Department responded to the hotel on North Reserve Street just after midnight for reports of smoke and flames coming from several vehicles in the parking lot. Responding fire units could see a visible smoke column while on the way, according to assistant fire marshal Dax Fraser.

On arrival, firefighters found intense flames bursting from vehicles. Crews were able to quickly knock down the bulk of the fire but the flames underneath the cars were difficult to extinguish due to flammable liquids. The incident was declared under control at about 1 a.m.

The Missoula City Police Department and the Missoula Emergency Services ambulance also responded. No injuries to firefighters or others were reported. 

Fraser said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and didn't release any details as to why arson is suspected. Two fire investigators have been assigned to the scene. Anyone with tips for law enforcement is encouraged to contact Five Valleys Crime Stoppers or the Fire Prevention Bureau at 552-6210.

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