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Resident living under Billings Rims fears unsupported rock could fall and hit another home

A remaining chunk of rock is causing concern
Posted at 3:22 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 17:22:22-04

Billings resident Dave Sutton, who lives near this weekend's Laredo Place rock fall , came forward at a Monday Billings City Council meeting to express concern about a rock that he says is unsupported, could break off the Rimrocks and damage another home.

"Our main concern going forward is that when the slide came down, it left a big chunk of rock at the top of the Rims that is no longer supported by anything underneath it," Sutton said.

ROCK CHUNK.jpg<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">David Jay
Chunk of rock that Sutton is worried about falling.

Sutton said he has been living in his house just east of the Saturday rock fall since 2001.

"As homeowners who have undergone a pretty traumatic experience living through that rockfall," Sutton said, "we would really appreciate it if the city would look at taking that down. So it doesn’t fall down on its own and have another event and possibly kill somebody."

Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski met with neighbors on Laredo Place Monday to let them know the city's plan to clean up the roadway.

"When you see the size of what came off of the Rims and where this one landed, essentially parked in the middle or one third of the way into this private home," Kukulski said. "Most importantly we didn’t lose anybody."

Kukulski said the city has hired a geologist to look at the Rimrocks around the fall to give an assessment. Findings from the geologist's report should be available in the coming days.

Boulder-removal techniques were discussed at the meeting. Kukulski mentioned the sheer size of the rock people are dealing with.

"These are not boulders we can pick up and move with a front-end loader," Kukulski said.

The city and residents are concerned that the movement of one rock in the pile could produce a chain reaction that could cause more damage.

"Based on that geologist advice and perspective, it could be several days or longer before we actually start moving things if we don’t want to make the situation worse," Kukulski said.

Sutton said he spoke with Billings-based Knife River Construction Co. to see what they could do to remove the rocks.

Knife River told Sutton it could use a pneumatic hammer excavator to break the rock into small chunks, but he asked the city to exercise caution.

"That’s a whole lot of vibration force that could shake both the Rims and the foundations of our houses, which have a settling issues anyway," Sutton said. "So we were hoping there was an alternative."

Kukulski stressed the importance for people who don't live on Laredo Place to stay away from the rock fall area above and below the Rims.

"I’ll tell you the neighbors have expressed a pretty concerted concern of citizens who don’t live on Laredo who live throughout our community who have decided to gawk at the situation," Kukulski said. "Please, we would ask the courtesy of our residents. If you don’t live up there, stay away."

Kukulski went on to describe a conversation he had with a homeowner who was offended by laughter and conversations that could be heard down the street.

"These people are living with a serious risk and in this case it proved itself by an act of god and that rock coming down from there," Kukulski said.