Propane fireplace is focus following Tamarack Resort fire that killed four, injured one

Fire destroys house at Tamarack Resort

A late-night fire at a house on Whitewater Drive in Donnelly sent one man to the hospital with unknown injuries on the night of June 30, 2017, according to the Valley County Sheriff's Office.
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A late-night fire at a house on Whitewater Drive in Donnelly sent one man to the hospital with unknown injuries on the night of June 30, 2017, according to the Valley County Sheriff's Office.

A large house at Tamarack Resort where four people died in a fire Friday night has three fireplaces — and one of them is being looked at as the source of the fatal fire, Idaho State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl said Saturday night.

“We’re still piecing things together,” Sandahl said. “It looks like there was a mishap with the fireplace.”

Sandahl said the fireplace they are focused on is in the main living room of the house. It is a propane gas fireplace, he said. There’s no suspicion of foul play.

The names of the four victims — two adults (a man and woman) and two children (male and female) — will be released once they’re positively identified, said Valley County Coroner Scott Carver.

“We will be doing examinations Monday morning, then we will be notifying next of kin,” Carver said. Valley County contracts with Ada County for pathology services, so the bodies will be examined in Boise.

One person survived the fire. William Smith, a 46-year-old Boise man, was hospitalized, according to the Valley County Sheriff’s Office. He has since been treated and released from Saint Luke’s McCall hospital.

Smith told fire officials there could be four victims in the house, and state fire investigators located four bodies Saturday. The Valley County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating with the Idaho National Guard and Tamarack Municipal Association to provide assistance to those impacted by the fire.

“I speak for the whole staff and community in saying that we’re stunned and deeply saddened by the fire and loss of life,” said Brad Larsen, general manager for Tamarack Resort. “We can only imagine what their family members are going through right now.”

Larsen said resort staff are helping investigators in any way they can.

A Boise couple were in a hot tub at a house at Tamarack on Friday night when they heard a loud explosion — and a house above them burst into flames.

Emergency personnel were called to the house in the 500 block of Whitewater Drive just after 10 p.m.

Boisean Niki LaMay and her husband, Joe, were at Tamarack for a wedding. They were hanging out with friends at a house when they heard “a really big huge explosion.”

“It sounded like a big propane tank,” she said.

They couldn’t see anything from the hot tub, so Joe LaMay went to investigate. He saw a plume of smoke coming from a large house and set off to notify others in the area of the fire.

“The firemen got there real quick,” Niki LaMay said, noting that there were about nine fire trucks. “We didn’t hear anyone calling for help.”

First responders to the scene were Donnelly Fire, Cascade Fire, McCall Fire, Idaho State Police, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, the Southern Idaho Timber Protection Association and the Valley County Sheriff’s Office.

The structure was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, Valley County sheriff’s officials said.

The house fire felt close enough that the LaMays began packing their car, in case they needed to evacuate. They were able to stay the night at the house, though firefighters were out late making sure the fire was out.

“Got to be thankful for the winter we had. It’s all green,” Niki LaMay said. “And there was no wind.”

The Sheriffs Office’s first news release about the fire came out early Saturday. At that time, they said one man was hospitalized, and they were unsure of how many others were victims of the fire.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller