SILVER VALLEY – Hoping that this isn’t a sign of things to come, fire crews from several local agencies responded to two more structure fires in the Silver Valley last week that resulted in both being declared total losses.
According to Shoshone County Fire District No. 1 firefighter John Miller, the first fire was reported in the early hours of May 9 and was initially believed to be a wildland fire- not a structure fire.
Fire crews left the Osburn station at approximately 2:20 a.m. heading toward 1st Street in Wallace, as that was where the reporting party called the fire into 911 from.
Miller explained that his three-person crew were expecting a slightly different situation then the one they actually encountered.
“We were heading to a wildland fire, so we took just one engine versus two fire rigs,” he said. “But it was alright.”
While en-rout to Wallace, dispatch informed the crew that the blaze was actually a fully-involved structure fire, not a wildland fire.
“You could see it right on the hill just glowing when we pulled in and got passed the Wallace Inn,” Miller said.
By the time this first crew arrived on scene, the walls of the affected structure on High Street were already crumbling and flames were reaching anywhere from 20-50 feet into the air.
The heat was so intense that crews were initially forced to attack the fire from the road with the mounted deck gun on the fire rig.
While this was happening, other personnel search for a more steady source of water.
The closest fire hydrant to the blaze turned out to be dry, so crews had to stretch hose lines to a second hydrant down High Street. These hydrants are maintained by the East Shoshone Water District.
A short time later, fire crews from SCFD No. 2 and the Idaho Department of Lands arrived to assist in suppression efforts and ensure that the fire did not spread to the adjacent hillside.
Personnel with Avista also assisted with the incident by cutting power to a downed power line and shutting off a busted natural gas line.
After roughly 6 hours on scene, the main fire had been extinguished and the bulk of the crews fighting it had returned to their stations.
Miller stated that while weather didn’t play much of a role in the incident, fighting a fire in the dark did make navigating the terrain a bit more difficult.
Region I Deputy Fire Marshal Jason Blubaum arrived on scene later the morning and conducted an investigation with the help of SCFD No. 1 Fire Chief Aaron Cagle, SCFD No. 2 Fire Chief Mark Aamodt and Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jeremy Groves.
While an official cause of the fire is unknown at this time, it is believed that it was accidental in nature. Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion at the start of the incident, but it is not known if this explosion was what started the fire or was a result of it.
It was feared early on that the residents of the home may have been killed in the fire, since contact could not be made with them and their vehicle was present at the scene. It was discovered later though that they were safe and sound after they returned to the scene around noon from an overnight camping trip.
No other injuries were reported and damage was contained to the original structure.
The second fire that local crews responded to occurred on the afternoon May 10. Personnel from SCFD No. 2 were dispatched to a trailer fire located at the corner of Oak Street and Silver Valley Road in Kingston- not far from the IDL Cataldo Office.
Upon arrival around 4:30 p.m., firefighters found half of the structure involved and working on the other half.
They quickly got to work to save what they could of the trailer and keep the flames from spreading to adjacent structures or foliage.
When all was said and done, the flames had been kept to the original structure and some of the infrastructure was saved- but the inside of the home had been completely gutted.
Contact with Chief Aamodt could not be made before press time, but it is known that no injuries were incurred and the incident is being treated as an accident.