Pocatello families left homeless by residential fires

April 5, 2018

POCATELLO — The Pocatello Fire Department says one of two residential fires in Pocatello Tuesday night was caused unintentionally and may have started from a portable space heater.

Travis Smith, the assistant chief of the Pocatello Fire Department told the Journal on Wednesday that the fire at a home in the 700 block of South Fourth Avenue near East Carter Street and Idaho State University started near a portable heating device. Smith added that the department could not determine if it was the device that malfunctioned or whether faulty wiring was to blame.

“It could have been the extension cord that the heater was plugged into or the device itself,” Smith said.

Reported around 9:10 p.m., Smith said firefighters had the blaze under control within 10 minutes after first responders arrived. Reports of a second fire at a mobile home in the 1700 block of West Quinn Road on the city’s north side came through less than 30 minutes later.

Smith said the investigation into the Quinn Road fire is ongoing and no cause has been determined for that fire.

No people were injured in the fires but a hamster died inside the blaze at the Quinn Road mobile home, according to Smith.

The fires are not connected, Smith said, adding that the mobile home is likely a total loss and the home on Fourth Avenue suffered at least $20,000 in damage.

The house on South Fourth suffered heavy fire damage to parts of the residence and smoke damage throughout, according to Smith. That residence is salvageable, Smith added, noting that he was unsure if either residence was insured.

Fire officials on Tuesday said the Fire Department has the resources to adequately respond to one structure fire but battling two at the same time is very difficult. After the second fire was reported, the firefighters at the South Fourth blaze had to quickly extinguish it and call in off-duty firefighters to help respond to the West Quinn fire.

Smith said it took about 30 minutes to extinguish each of the fires.

A passerby reported the fire on South Fourth and the family living in the residence was able to quickly evacuate the house.

The family living in the West Quinn residence reported the fire there and safely evacuated with their two dogs.

The fires displaced both families and it’s unclear where the family living in the mobile home stayed on Tuesday night. Smith on Wednesday said the Pocatello Fire Department used some of its public assistance fund to find the family of the Fourth Avenue home a temporary place to stay. The family declined assistance from the Red Cross, Smith added.

Further, Smith said more details of the Quinn Road mobile home fire should be available by the end of the week.