Desert Homes In Fire Peril

Ash home 2.jpg

Thursday night’s intense thunderstorm and accompanying winds were not really unusual for Southwest Idaho, but losing homes and risking lives should send a signal to local authorities considering development in lands subject to wildfire.

Three occupied homes and an empty house trailer burned in the Tipanuk (Kuna Pit backwards) settlement just north of I-84 at the first overpass west of Mountain Home. Fire crews from the BLM responded, but could do little to help by the time they arrived. The range fire, caused either by lightning or electrical wires downed by the wind, swept through at 50 mph.

It is a heart-rending experience to watch families sift through the remains of their lives following a tragic fire. Gene Kastner and his two adult sons were remarkably calm and resolute as they tried to salvage “something” from the still hot ashes Friday.

“We lost all our family pictures and everything but the clothes on our backs,” Kastner told the GUARDIAN. He said he lived outside any fire protection district.

Kastner’s plight is similar to thousands of residents in Idaho who choose to live in the wide open spaces. While taxes are low, they don’t have the luxury of big red fire engines and trained firefighters to protect them. Red Cross volunteers were on the scene offering financial and lodging assistance to those who needed it. You can make donations at

Another home near Lucky Peak Dam was also lost to fire as the Hammer Flat area burned.
That area is where the proposed “Cliffs Development” is slated to contribute more than 1,400 homes.

Hidden Springs in the foothills northwest of Boise has a nice fire station, but it is unmanned. Avimor on Highway 55 has no fire station, but got Eagle to annex the acreage. The latest Mayfield Springs proposed development along I-84 is outside any fire district.

Bottom line: developments in areas subject to wildfire are risky, have no municipal water system with hydrants and mains and no full-time fire departments. The low tax rates appeal to buyers and those of us who pay taxes for our fire departments have to provide fire equipment and staff as “mutual aid” for the BLM wildfire crews who don’t have the training or trucks to fight structure fires.

Boise City responds all the time to the area east of Boise where there is no fire district and fires abound. They turned down a request for assistance Thursday on the Hammer Flats fire, but KTVB-7 reported two trucks were eventually dispatched.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. The request for assistance came from BLM. The BLM and Boise City have a mutual aid agreement for times when BLM is too busy. Engines #3 & #6 were dispatched. Parts of Skyline’s property and the illegal subdivision were burnt among others.

    If and when The Cliffs are built, Skyline has an agreement with Whitney Fire District to build, supply/outfit and cover expenses of the station until taxes meet that obligation. This includes the salaries of the firemen.

    What Skyline proposes should be mandatory and written into the ordinance for planned communties within the foothills planning area.

  2. BoiseCitizen
    Aug 11, 2006, 5:29 pm

    Actually, it was Boise Engines 5,3,12, and NACFR 221,(3000 gallon water tender). I heard that the Hammer Flats developer wants to build a fire station up there to try and get approval from the county. It is crazy that developers keep building in areas that burn with regularity. It’s all about the money I guess.

  3. As I recall, part of Hidden Springs’ proposal was a promise that it would build, supply and staff a fire station. Correct? If so, why has no legal action been taken against the developer or whoever for not staffing the station? Seems like the homeowners there should be raising so much hell that the ones who were supposed to arrange for firefighters there will think they’ve already died and begun paying for their sins.

    And doesn’t the county or whatever government allowed that development to come into existence do anything to enforce agreements?

    EDITOR NOTE–They probably “staff” with volunteers.

  4. We took a little trip up to Hidden Springs yesterday to see if it has improved. (Don’t you like how developers always use language that relates to water? In the middle of the desert?) It is surrounded by very dry grass and sagebrush.

    Nice fire department – two trucks in the driveway – no people that we could see. Who would put out a fire? There is a cafe that was almost totally empty and very dirty. Wouldn’t eat there myself. Next door is a little snowcone place with an “open” sign on it. No one was there.

    No jobs, no high school, no grocery store. What kind of “Planned” is that? Dry Creek Road is mostly dirt and very bumpy. Cartwright Road is closed. Only ingress and egress is the one that goes past the dump. Is this the example of a “Planned Community”? What would an unplanned one look like? What nonsense.

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