66 homes burn in eastern Idaho wildfire

POCATELLO, Idaho — Fire officials say 66 homes and 29 outbuildings in the eastern Idaho city of Pocatello have burned in a fast-moving wildfire.

More than 1,000 people have been evacuated from some Pocatello neighborhoods and the community of Mink Creek. The Charlotte fire started Thursday afternoon, spreading quickly through bone-dry grass and brush.

Sarah Wheeler with the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center said late Friday morning that the fire is burning on just over 1,000 acres — that’s a little more than 1 1⁄2 square miles — and is estimated to be about 30 percent contained. No injuries have been reported.

Officials have not released details about what may have sparked the blaze but say it is believed to be human-caused.

A report from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said the fire was showing extreme behavior, spreading quickly and sparking new, small fires some distance from the main body of flames.

Some areas have been reopened to residents, but Dianne Brush with the Pocatello Police Department said authorities were still trying to determine when it will be safe to allow everyone back to their homes.

“It is still a dangerous situation even for the firefighters,” she told the Idaho State Journal, “but there are police officers in the area making sure that the homes are secure.”

Evacuees were brought to schools, where they awaited news of their homes.

Jessica Siler told KIFI-TV that her husband, Shane Siler, is a firefighter who got the call to fight the flames in his own neighborhood. He arrived to find their home was destroyed, she said.

Still, the family escaped with a few possessions — her 9-year-old daughter and 12- and 14-year-old sons grabbed their musical instruments as they evacuated the home.

“I asked the kids, `Go get anything you want to keep. We got a couple minutes.’ … And they went and picked up all their musical instruments and very little else,” she said.

Power lines and phone lines are down in the area, Brush said, but some residents are being allowed back into the neighborhoods with photo identification if they need to pick up medication or have another emergency.

“It’s been heartbreaking talking to these people that have lost the homes,” she said.

Parts of southern and eastern Idaho, including the Pocatello region, have been placed on a “red flag” status by the Bureau of Land Management. The status means that a combination of low humidity, high temperatures and wind has created explosive fire conditions, and people in the region should be cautious with vehicles, ammunition, fireworks and other devices that can cause fires.

The cities of Pocatello and Chubbuck have banned the sale and discharge of fireworks, and city leaders are telling residents to save any fireworks they’ve already purchased for New Year’s Eve.

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