Fast-moving Pocatello fire burns 66 homes; hundreds remain evacuated
Dozens of fire crews spent more than 48 hours to contain a fast-moving blaze that destroyed more than 60 homes in several Pocatello subdivisions.
The Charlotte fire broke out Thursday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. adjacent to the Mink Creek subdivision. The blaze charred more than 1,000 acres, damaging homes within 40 minutes of the initial sparks.
Crews from across the state battled to contain the blaze shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
Thousands of people were forced to evacuate including longtime Pocatello resident, Randy Toone, who is now sleeping inside an area shelter.
"I've traveled all through Idaho and the Northwest," Toone said. "And, I've never seen anything come as quick as this disaster did with this fire."
Toone has lived in Pocatello for more than a half a century. His house still stands, but some of his neighbors lost everything.
"Just straight black," Toone recalled. "There is nothing green at all for five miles to the south. It came three miles in an hour and took the homes and everything with it."
"This is one for the books," Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said. Nielsen has lost count of the fire crews and relief agenices stationed this weekend in his hometown.
"I have never seen anything like this in the state," Nielsen said.
"66 homes totally destroyed and others partially damaged. That's the highest property value loss i've experienced in my career."
It will be at least five days before Randy Toone can return to his house. When he does, he promises to welcome community members who won't be able to return to their homes into his.
"We will help everybody rebuild," Toone said. "I'll reduce the price of my home since I am retired. People can bring their kids and clothe them, give them food, give them a place to stay, until they decide what they're going to do."
Toone is considering giving up his home to let a displaced family move in.
"I will let them lease or live in it and not charge them."
Fire officials hope to let hundreds still evacuated back into their homes by the end of this coming week.
Since Thursday night, Idaho State University's Holt Arena served as a shelter for dozens of residents. The Red Cross closed the shelter Saturday afternoon.
Sheriff Nielsen worries about Sunday's weather. The forecast calls for high winds. Nielsen fears it will only take a few of the hot-spot embers flaring up for the fire to reignite.