Boise & Garden City

2 families displaced by fire Christmas morning are now homeless. Here’s how to help.

A fire gutted a home in Southeast Boise on Monday morning.
A fire gutted a home in Southeast Boise on Monday morning.

Almost everyone was asleep, including four children, when a house fire broke out around 7 a.m. Monday — so the outcome could have been even more devastating than it was.

“It’s a blessing nobody died,” said Christina Bittle, who lived in the house with her fiance, Danny Clifford, and her son. “That’s what I thank the Lord for.”

Photos from outside didn’t show it, but fire ravaged the inside of the house at 3608 Jesmond Way in Southeast Boise. Bittle said investigators suspect an electrical short in an extension cord caused the fire but that hasn’t been officially released as the cause. A spokesman for the Boise Fire Department could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

Bittle’s brother, Tony Contreras, and his three children have been living in a converted garage since June. Contreras was the one who noticed that a fire was burning in a locked bonus room of the house.

“He thought it was Christmas lights, then he realized it was a fire,” Bittle said. He broke the door down to get inside and be sure no one was trapped in there.

The three adults ushered four pajamas-clad children, ages 9 to 17, to a vehicle outside. The family cat and one of the two dogs got out on their own; one of the children grabbed the second dog, hiding in one of the rooms.

Bittle said she and Clifford have lived in the house for 7  1/2 years, and he bought the house 4  1/2 years ago. They don’t have insurance.

“How stupid can we possibly be? … We let it lapse,” Bittle said. “Between the two of us, we let it go by the wayside, and it turned around and bit us in the butt.”

The garage collapsed and destroyed one of their cars, but they have a couple of others that were undamaged, Bittle said. They lost most everything else to fire and smoke damage, though Contreras was able to grab Christmas presents.

Bittle said they have received $800 from the Boise Fire Department’s burnout fund and $1,200 from the American Red Cross for clothes, food and temporary shelter.

A friend gave them a voucher for four nights in a hotel. After that, Bittle said they expect to have to stay at one of the local homeless shelters.

A YouCaring account, which has raised $325 so far, has been set up to help them rebuild Clifford’s house. If you would like to donate, click here.

Want to donate clothing to the children? They need these sizes: 7 junior girls, 3 junior girls, 28 boys, 10 to 12 boys. Drop off clothes or mail checks to: 3608 Jesmond Way, Boise, ID 83716. Reach Bittle by phone: 208-513-0213.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller