Boise & Garden City

Danger, logistics slow investigation into fire that killed 4 Boiseans in Donnelly

Fire officials work at the scene of a Tamarack Resort home where 4 people died

The charred remains of a home at Idaho's Tamarack Resort rest on a hill above Lake Cascade on July 2, 2017. Investigations will determine the cause of the fire.
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The charred remains of a home at Idaho's Tamarack Resort rest on a hill above Lake Cascade on July 2, 2017. Investigations will determine the cause of the fire.

The Idaho state fire marshal said Friday that the origin of a fire that killed four people in a large house at Tamarack Resort June 30 has been determined — but investigators probably won’t be able to nail down a definitive cause until mid-August.

Investigators sifting through the rubble of the house last Friday determined that it was not structurally safe enough to continue their work in the three-story, 4,600-square-foot house.

“We’re going to get a crane in there and remove the hazards, then continue on with the actual looking for additional evidence on what the origin and cause,” Sandahl said.

The two adults and two children who died in the fire were: Erin Smith, 34; her daughter, Autumn Smith, 7; James “Jim” Harper III, 49; and James “JJ” Harper IV, 14. Erin Smith’s husband, William “Mitch” Smith, 46, was treated and released from a local hospital.

Erin Smith and Jim Harper were both senior leaders within the National Guard. The Guard held a memorial service last Sunday.

The origin of the fire was determined to be the propane fireplace in the 2nd floor, or main, living room of the house. Mitch Smith was sitting in a corner of the living room, while others were trying to light a fire, Sandahl said.

“We’re focusing on a mishap — and it may have been a combination of mishaps,” he said.

Sandahl is leading a team of three investigators from his office. He’s coordinating with engineers, insurance company officials and others to return to the site, likely the second week of August. It has been secured with a 10-foot fence.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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