Valley County on Monday identified four Boiseans — including two children — killed in a weekend fire at a home in Donnelly.
Coroner Scott Carver said the victims were Erin Smith, 34; her daughter, Autumn Smith, 7; James “Jim” Harper III, 49; and James “JJ” Harper IV, 14.
William “Mitch” Smith, 46, survived the Friday night fire and tentatively identified the four victims to law enforcement over the weekend. The names of the two children had not previously been released.
Officials told the Statesman they believed the cause of the fire to be a propane fireplace in the home. The official cause of the fire, as well as the cause of death of the four victims, has not yet been determined. Foul play is not suspected.
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The Smiths and the elder Harper were all members of the Idaho National Guard. Friends and fellow guardsmen over the weekend remembered Erin Smith and Jim Harper as beloved, essential senior members of the organization. Smith garnered attention as the first female tank crew member in the U.S., and Harper was known for his involvement in erecting multiple memorials for veterans.
Noah Siple, a friend and coworker of the Smiths and Harper, said Idaho’s guardsmen will serve as living memorials for the fallen soldiers. He also said the Harpers were inseparable.
“JJ was the single greatest source of happiness for Jim,” Siple said. “One couldn’t live without the other.”
“We are devastated at the loss of our amazing son JJ Harper and his father, our friend Jim,” said JJ Harper’s uncle, Ian Calip, in a family statement late Monday. “JJ’s infectious smile, his hearty laugh, his big heart, and his leadership on the football field will be missed by everyone.
“JJ and Jim were apart for two deployments overseas in JJ’s short life and they lived every minute of every day to make the time they had together count,” Calip said. “There will be a memorial hike to Table Rock to honor JJ on Saturday, July 15 at 10 a.m., and a service will be announced at a future date. Our hearts are also with the Smith family during this difficult time.”