Holiday fireworks burn two Nampa homes, keep Valley firefighters busy

One home in a gated subdivision near Lake Lowell was destroyed early Tuesday, most likely by illegal aerial fireworks, and an earlier fire in a home across town apparently was started by legal fireworks that smoldered after being placed in a bucket, Nampa Fire Marshal Phil Roberts said Tuesday.

Fireworks also are blamed for a grass fire near Middleton that torched around 20 acres and damaged a building. And fire departments across the Treasure Valley reported an increase in holiday fire calls.

And all that activity came on the heels of last week's Table Rock Fire, which destroyed a home and blackened more than 2,500 acres of the Boise Foothills. Reportedly started by illegal fireworks, that fire is still under investigation and prompted Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan and others to call for a change in the Idaho law that allows residents to buy illegal fireworks as long as they sign a promise that they won't use the pyrotechnics in Idaho.

Firefighters battle an early morning blaze Thursday after midnight.

In Nampa, investigators are "pretty sure" illegal aerial fireworks hit the roof of a home in the 700 block of West Whisperwood Court, ultimately destroying the house early Tuesday, Roberts said. A neighbor pounded on the door of the home to alert the man and woman inside about 1:45 a.m., he said.

Investigators found numerous expended fireworks in the neighborhood of the type suspected of starting the fire, he said, and "we have a good idea" who to blame.

"It's ... just difficult to justify these types of fireworks when it causes this type of devastation," Roberts said.

But about 25 hours earlier, another Nampa home was seriously damaged by fireworks that weren't illegal but apparently had not been disposed of properly, the fire marshal said.

That fire broke out just after midnight on East Sir Patrick Court, north of Amity Road. Roberts said legal fireworks had been placed in a bucket in the garage, but one of the devices apparently sparked the fire. The people inside the home got out, but a dog and cat inside reportedly died.

A large grass fire threatened residences in Middleton Tuesday, apparently rekindled from a fireworks-sparked blaze that crews extinguished late Monday, investigators said.The fire near Kingsbury Road was contained Tuesday afternoon, and crews planned to keep an eye on it overnight. The Middleton Rural Fire District led the firefighting effort, with support from Star, Nampa and other area departments.

Numerous smaller fires broke out throughout the Treasure Valley over the holiday, many attributed to fireworks.

The Boise Fire Department reports 74 calls and 31 fires on July 4 and early July 5 this year, with 17 of those fires caused by fireworks. Most of those fires were in grass or dumpsters, a spokeswoman said, but two involved structures.

That's more fires but fewer calls than in the two previous years. In 2014 and 2015, the department reported 91 and 83 total calls, respectively, with only 12 fires (nine caused by fireworks) in 2014 and eight fires (seven caused by fireworks) in 2015.

Ada County dispatch received 235 fireworks complaints between noon July 4 and 6 a.m. July 5, according to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.

That number is slightly down from reports in 2015, but not by much. In 2015 there were 260 fireworks complaints between 1 p.m. July 4 and 3 a.m. July 5.

ASCO also noted another 33 reports of grass fires between July 4 and July 5, but couldn’t confirm by Tuesday morning that all of those fires were linked to fireworks.

The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office got 127 calls to dispatch reporting fireworks problems from July 1 to Tuesday morning, according to spokesman Joe Decker. That’s substantially more than in the previous two years, he said, when dispatch received 100 fireworks-related calls last year and about 70 in 2014.

Statistics for the Nampa Fire Department were not available Tuesday.

Table Rock trails are back open, rehab continues

Signs and caution tape are no longer at the Old Pen trailhead or the entrance to Tram Trail. But the Homestead trail, which passes through the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, remains closed. And you still can’t drive to the top of Table Rock, Boise Parks and Recreation announced Tuesday.

The city, Ridge to Rivers and the Idaho State Historical Society warn that temporary closures may still happen as rehabilitation work continues following Thursday’s damaging fire. Flames covered 2,500 acres surrounding Table Rock, including all 164 acres that the city owns, and burned down one house.

Authorities quickly closed the trail system, both to allow fire cleanup efforts to finish and to assess the damage. The burned portion of the Boise River WMA, for example, could “look pretty rough for a while — a couple of years,” wildlife biologist Krista Muller previously told the Statesman.

Tuesday’s announcement stressed that hikers must — must — stay on the trails to protect them from further damage during rehab and recovery. It also emphasized that the area remains off-limits for motorized use.

Follow this link to see more photos of the burned area around the trails.

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