Boise & Garden City

Woman, 2 children die in Boise house fire; smoke detectors were found in a box

A woman and her two children died after a Boise house fire early Monday morning, the city’s deadliest fire since at least 2011, according to Boise Fire officials.

Neighbors reported the fire in the two-story house just after 5 a.m. in the 1500 block of South Leadville Avenue, just east of Broadway Avenue and south of the Boise River. All three victims were found outside their bedrooms, Boise Fire spokeswoman Char Jackson told the Statesman.

The Ada County Coroner’s Office identified the woman as 43-year-old Jana K. Cullen and the children as 12-year-old Ryker Sanchez and 9-year-old Rilee Sanchez. The cause and manner of death for all three was still pending, the coroner’s office said Monday.

There were five fire alarms in the house; three upstairs and two downstairs, Jackson said. A fire alarm in the kitchen on the first floor was still on the ceiling but its battery had been removed before the fire. The other four were found in a box, she said.

“According to the landlord, no request for help with the smoke detectors was ever received,” Jackson said.

The first crews on the scene pulled the woman and children out of the burning house, Jackson said. They immediately began CPR on the victims, and the two children were transported to the hospital.

“When the crews arrived, they didn’t really see flames at first,” Jackson said. “It was not fully involved, but there was a lot of smoke.”

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Caution tape surrounds a home on the 1500 block of South Leadville Avenue, where an early morning fire killed one woman and two children on July 8, 2019. Katy Moeller

The coroner determined both children died around 5:45 a.m. Cullen was pronounced dead shortly before 7 a.m.

Fire investigators have determined the fire was caused by a heating element in an electric wax burner that “failed and caught shelving” on fire.

“Wax burners generally are very safe,” Boise Fire Department Deputy Chief Romeo Gervais said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “They are an electrical appliance though, and that’s what we’re looking at here is some sort of malfunction with that wax burner.”

It’s “really important” to maintain working fire alarms on every floor of a residence, Jackson said.

Gervais reiterated that point, saying working smoke detectors could’ve meant the difference between “a fatality fire and just a structure fire.”

Gervais said people can call the Boise Fire Department if they need help affording or installing smoke detectors or batteries.

The incident is the second fatal fire in Boise this year. In April, 54-year-old Henry Lloyd Loader died when his motorhome caught fire. Boise Fire wasn’t immediately able to access records from before 2011.

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