Blaze destroys businesses in heart of Idaho tourist city

AP News
Posted: Jun 05, 2015 3:28 PM
Blaze destroys businesses in heart of Idaho tourist city

IDAHO CITY, Idaho (AP) — A large fire tore through the heart of a small Idaho city popular with tourists, destroying five businesses Friday on rustic, old-timey Main Street as they prepared for the summer season.

No one was injured in the fire that likely started in an Idaho City cafe called Calamity Jayne's, Fire Chief Terry Teeter said. The restaurant was destroyed as well as the Sarsparilla ice cream parlor, Main Street Floral and Candle Shop, Old Time Photo and the Idaho City Trading Post.

"When everything started, when my husband woke me up, it was just this big, huge ball of flame," Idaho City resident Brandy Gehrls told Boise news station KTVB-TV. "It was just crazy to watch, especially growing up here and watching it burn to the ground."

The blaze ignited in the early morning hours and was mostly extinguished by 6:30 a.m. by about 25 firefighters with seven trucks, officials said.

"You could have driven down the highway with your lights off," witness Brandy Burtlow told the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

Teeter said the cause of the fire is under investigation. No damage estimate was provided.

Idaho City is about 35 miles northeast of Boise and is popular stop among summer tourists as a destination or a resting place to and from vacation areas farther north.

Randy Barrett and his wife, Toni Barrett, co-own the entire block that was destroyed.

"Forty years of my life is here," he said. "This is a major change for all of Idaho City."

He said he was confident about rebuilding after calling his insurance company. But businesses that rented space lost inventory right at the start of the tourist season, Randy Barrett said.

"You only have a few months to make it work," he said.

Becky Gilbert, who runs the floral and ice cream shops, said the fire put nine employees out of work.

"Right now, it's pretty somber," Charles Sepulbeda, another area business owner, told Boise news station KBOI-TV. "It's sad in this community, as a lot of people have relied on work from some of these businesses."