Boise fire described as worst in recent memory

Boise fire described as worst in recent memory »Play Video

BOISE - One person has been killed and up to 10 homes in southeast Boise have been completely destroyed by a massive four-alarm fire Monday night.

According to initial reports, the fire began as a grass fire near the Columbia Village subdivision near Amity and Holcomb roads at about 7 p.m. Nine additional homes were also damaged and up to 100 people have been evacuated. Homes destroyed are in the E. Sweetwater Drive and East Imigrant Pass Court, according to officials.

"I saw one house, maybe two that were completely in flames," said Rachael Ruz, who lives in the Harrison Ranch area and witnessed the chaos through her window. "We're all in shock."

Ruz said she saw a great deal of smoke as she was moving furniture in her house. The large plume of smoke, however, quickly turned black.

"I thought it was all dust at first, but it started picking up and then I could start seeing the flames," Ruz said.

The woman who died as a result of Monday night's fire has been tentatively identified as Mary Ellen Ryder, according to the Ada County Coroner's office. She was a professor at Boise State University. Further forensic tests are pending.

Authorities say up to 17 officers who were in the neighborhoods helping families have been treated for varying levels of smoke inhalation. One firefighter was sent to the hospital after he suffered a laceration on the hand. Authorities were unable to control the bleeding, which prompted the hospital visit.

"This has been the most devastating fire we've seen in recent memory," said Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan. "Many families have suffered terrific loss from this fire. Our hearts go out to those affected."

At the time of the initial fire report, winds were blowing at about 50 miles per hour. Boise Fire officials had issued a red flag warning earlier in the day. 

"The wind is so strong we're literally just watching houses go up in flames," said resident Susan Hallamore, 42. "Our house went up in flames."

She said she, her husband and five children were away from the home when the fire broke out. In her words, "First you're happy you're all safe, then you realize you don't have any pictures any more."

Approximately 41 fire crews were at the scene. Assistance came from many fire departments throughout the valley including Meridian, North Ada County, BLM, Kuna, Star, Melba, Gem County, Payette County, Nampa and Caldwell.

The Idaho Humane Society has set-up space to house any animals evacuated from the fire. Residents say flames spread quickly Monday evening through dry cheatgrass and sagebrush near the homes, several in the Columbia Village subdivision.

Fire officials say all available Boise firefighters and equipment were called to the smoke-covered scene. The Bureau of Land Management has also sent four engines and about 20 firefighters.





Meridian Police, The Ada County Sheriff's department and the Idaho State Police assisted Boise Police by taking calls throughout the city. About 60 Boise Police Department officers responded to the call.

Dan Hollar, Boise School District spokesman, said Monday night that school at Trail Wind Elementary and Les Bois Jr. High will still be held on Tuesday. He did say, however, that families with students who are affected by Monday night's fire are not obligated to attend school and will have an excused absense.

Counselors will be on hand at both schools for anyone who needs to talk.

For anyone who wants to help families affected by Monday's fire the Boise Burnout is taking donations. Information: 590-1437.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.