Recent house, apartment fires across Treasure Valley had preventable causes

A flurry of recent house fires in the Treasure Valley may seem unusual, but local fire officials say the numbers are pretty standard.

What is unusual in Boise this April, Fire Marshal Romeo Gervais said, is how many structure fires were significant enough to spark investigation, including a fire that caused the death of artist Molly Hill.

The April 23 fire in Hill’s East Congress Street home was started by smoking materials in the bedroom, Gervais said.

Other reported causes of Boise fires last week included a Boise man trying to light incense in his South Vista Avenue apartment, children playing with a candle in a vacant duplex on North 32nd Street and a space heater left too close to combustibles in a concrete shelter adjacent to a Ridgeway Drive home.

“I think the key from my standpoint, with all these fires, is most of them are preventable,” Gervais said.

Boise firefighters responded to seven house fires last week. And through April 27, 16 fires have required investigation, he said. That’s up from 11 during the same period in 2014, he said.

But overall fire numbers so far this year are slightly lower than in 2014: 34 structure fires (35 in 2014); 19 vehicle fires (21) and 44 other fires such as dumpster or rubbish fires (45). The only fire category with higher numbers this year than last is grass fires: 15 between Jan. 1 and April 27, up from 9 during the same period last year.

Perry Palmer, deputy chief for the Meridian Fire Department, said fire and other emergency calls often seem to come in bunches.

“It’s just one of those things,” Palmer said. “We’re in a very cyclic business. ... It just seems like we run into periods of time where everything gets bunched.”

Last week Meridian responded to a Thursday night garage fire that resulted in an arson charge against a resident.

Two of the most destructive fires in the Treasure Valley last week happened near the Ada-Canyon county line, destroying homes in Star April 19 and Middleton Saturday afternoon. No one was injured in either blaze.

Reporter Erin Fenner contributed