Small Idaho Wildfire Destroys Six Homes

"How do you even clean up something like this?" 70-year-old June Jeffery asked Tuesday as she surveyed acres of blackened grass, burned-out shells of cars and smoking piles of twisted rubble where homes once stood.

Jeffery's Contrail Avenue house was spared, but everything she owned behind it was destroyed by fire Monday night, including a coop with 42 chickens.

"What do you do? It's all gone," she said. "We lost all our chickens. My son lost all his tools that were in the shed. We lost a trailer. My garden is all I have left. Look. It's untouched."

The rural neighborhood off Airbase Road southwest of town was a blackened moonscape Tuesday after a fire driven by winds of 48 mph raced through Monday night. Eleven structures were destroyed, including four mobile homes and two conventional homes.

No one was killed or injured, fire officials said.

But it was close.

'NOTHING LEFT'

Two doors down from Jeffery's house, Clyde Charbonneau sighed as he pulled a melted piece of plastic off what remained of his Oldsmobile Achieva. To his right was what had been his mobile home, now a still-smoking pile of debris.

To his left were skeletons of three other cars he'd been working on and a shop that had become a pile of melted plastic and metal.

"There is nothing left," he said.

About 1,000 feet away, on his 8 acres of blackened land, firefighters sprayed water on what was left of another trailer in which he'd stored almost 9,000 books.

Charbonneau was fixing dinner Monday evening when he saw smoke. He and roommate Jes Calkin grabbed their two pit bull mixes and a Chihuahua and got out.

"Clyde was yelling for me when we got outside, because the smoke was so thick he couldn't see at first," said Calkin. (The fire) just got on us so fast. But we all got out."

Calkin said she lost several Ibanez guitars and $300 in cash she was going to use to fix her car. "I guess I don't have to worry about that now," she said, pointing to a husk of metal.

"I can't look at it like it's the worst thing that ever happened, because that would be if anything happened to him," Calkin said, indicating Charbonneau. "This is just stuff. I almost feel liberated. It's a chance to start all over. That's what you have to tell yourself. That's what I am telling myself right now."

Jeffery said she was watching TV in bed around 7:30 p.m. when she heard her next-door neighbor banging on the door.

"She said there was a fire coming and we had to get out," she said.

Jeffery's neighbor lost her mobile home, a trailer and everything else on her property, said family friend David Bean. He described the damage to the property owner via cellphone Tuesday.

CAUSE UNKNOWN

Fire officials say they know the fire started several dozen feet off Airbase Road behind an abandoned home and a shop -- which had electricity -- but may never know exactly the cause, Mountain Home Fire Chief Alan Bermensolo said. The fire ignited the two buildings and winds sent the flames into the rest of the neighborhood, Bermensolo said.

The fire was reported about 7:30 p.m. Monday. Elmore County sheriff's deputies and Mountain Home and Idaho State police worked to evacuate people from about 25 homes while fire crews from Mountain Home and the BLM worked on the flames.

It took crews about 90 minutes to put out the flames.

"When the fire started, the wind was blowing so fast that it just took it right through," Elmore County Sheriff Rick Layher told the Statesman Monday night. "There wasn't much time to get much done at all.

"We were worried a lot more houses were going to burn. The fire department and BLM really got on it and knocked things down. They did an awesome job."

Fire crews spent much of Tuesday afternoon walking the 150 acres of ashen ground watering down hot spots, especially in the still-smoldering wreckage of the buildings, before wrapping up at 5:45 p.m.

Copyright 2012 - The Idaho Statesman, Boise

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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