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Fire that damaged historic Boise band shell was ‘human caused,’ police investigating

Historic Gene Harris bandshell caught on fire in Julia Davis Park

The Gene Harris Bandshell in Julia Davis Park caught fire on Monday, April 23, shortly after 8 p.m. Three Boise Fire Department engines tried to save one of Boise’s civic treasures, using hoses to get under the Spanish-style ceramic tiles.
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The Gene Harris Bandshell in Julia Davis Park caught fire on Monday, April 23, shortly after 8 p.m. Three Boise Fire Department engines tried to save one of Boise’s civic treasures, using hoses to get under the Spanish-style ceramic tiles.

Someone set the fire that damaged the historic Gene Harris Bandshell in Julia Davis Park Monday night — but fire officials don’t know if it was an accident or intentional.

The band shell roof was heavily damaged in the blaze, which was reported at about 8:15 p.m.

Fire investigators ruled out an electrical malfunction as being the cause of the fire, said Boise Fire spokeswoman Char Jackson. They turned over their report, including interviews with witnesses in the park, to the Boise Police Department.

“Whether that was accidental or not, that’s what BPD is going to attempt to figure out during their investigation,” Jackson said.

She said none of the witnesses interviewed saw or heard any fireworks. Burning in parks is prohibited, and that includes campfires, but small grills are permitted, according to Boise Parks & Recreation spokeswoman Bonnie Shelton. Those grilling in the park are asked to grill on a flat surface (not on the grass) and make sure to use a drip pan, she said.

At this point, there is no evidence pointing to grilling or cooking as being the source of the fire, Shelton said.

The fire left large holes in the north and south sections of the band shell roof. The clay tiles of the roof were displaced by water sprayed to extinguish the fire in the wood frame underneath it, Jackson said.

“The walls are still in tact,” Jackson said. “The majority of the damage is isolated to the roof.”

Boise Parks and Recreation Department will hire a disaster cleanup crew to clean the interior and exterior of the building. The area around the band shell will be fenced off — and the public is asked to stay away — but the rest of the park will remain open.

Shelton said the band shell is reserved for about 20 events a year, including Art in the Park, See Spot Walk and the YMCA St. Patrick’s Day Race.

“We are deeply saddened to see the damage done to this historic Boise landmark,” Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. “We are hopeful the Gene Harris Bandshell can be restored so that we can continue to host community events and create lasting memories in Julia Davis Park for generations to come.”

The band shell is insured, and it will be repaired.

The Julia Davis Park band shell was dedicated on July 8, 1928. It was renamed to honor jazz musician Gene Harris in 2000.

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