Stephanie Smith says her family is overwhelmed by the kindness people have shown since they lost their possessions in a house fire the morning of Feb. 25.
The Smiths rented a house at 518 W. Spruce St. in Mackay which sustained heavy damage from the fire. Stephanie, her husband Jesus, their five children and two dogs got out of the house with no injuries, for which she’s especially grateful.
Stephanie Smith said she smelled smoke around 6 a.m. that Saturday, but thought it was just the woodstove. Her husband, a long-haul trucker for Knight Refrigerated, was home and she convinced him to get up and check on the smoke smell. He immediately discovered smoke rolling from the attic into the kitchen and dining room and told his wife to get everyone out of the house. Stephanie said she “got up, put my tennis shoes on, asked my oldest daughter to get the baby, Briar, and her car seat” and then woke the other three children up.
“My 7-year-old wanted her shoes and I told her she could grab them and put them on in the car. But, instead she grabbed my snow boots because she didn’t want my feet to get cold,” Stephanie said of Iza.
Meanwhile, Stephanie got her 2-year-old son Mateo from bed, held the hand of her 5-year-old daughter Bird and led them both to the car.
Genuine Idahoans, the Smiths keep coats and boots in their vehicles “because you just never know,” Stephanie said. So as the kids got in the auto, they had those items. Still, Stephanie ran back in to get her coat. “I probably shouldn’t have, but,” she said. She and her husband found the dogs hiding under a bed and convinced them to quickly come outside.
While Stephanie was rounding up the children, Jesus used a garden hose to try to stop the fire which was in the breaker box on the outside rear of the house. Too much snow was piled up against the gate in the back yard that he couldn’t get out that way when he stopped spraying and had to go back inside and come out the front door, Stephanie said.
Her oldest, Lani, had called the fire department. Stephanie called their landlord and her mom. Her mom arrived, after making a quick stop at Sammy’s Mini Mart. “The lady there, and I can’t remember her name, told my mom to bring us there for a free breakfast and a place to warm up,” Stephanie said. It didn’t take long before the owners of the Wagon Wheel Motel offered the Smiths a cabin to stay in. That’s their temporary home as they continue their work to buy a house they’d already started the purchase process on.
People have donated money, food, clothing and toys for the kids, Stephanie said. They’ve received a couple of couches and beds, too.
Stephanie said they’ve received more clothes than they lost in the fire, for which they are thankful, but she said they don’t need more clothing or shoes. They could use “basic household stuff like sheets, quilts, blankets and dishes.”
Until they are able to buy the house they are eyeing, they’re storing all the donated goods in storage units. People who want to donate to the family may call Stephanie at 208-403-4879. If people have furniture they want to donate, Stephanie said she’ll meet them at the storage units to drop the items off.
“We are so grateful to everyone,” she said. Donations have come from Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salmon and all around Custer County, she said. “It’s amazing how this community has come together for us.”
South Custer Rural Fire District Assistant Chief Ken Day said six firefighters responded to the fire call at 6:46 a.m. and were on the scene until about noon. When firefighters arrived smoke was coming out of three sides of the one-story house, Day said, primarily stemming from the attic. The family members were already all outside and safe, so firefighters could get busy battling the fire, he said.
The fire had smoldered in the attic for a while, Day said. The rafters and ceiling joists were fully burned out, which indicates the fire burned for at least several hours.
The house has been added on to several times in its 90-or-so-year life, Day said, which made getting to the fire in the attic difficult. Firefighters had to deal with two and three ceilings in parts of the house and a metal roof over shingles. That made it difficult for firefighters to find and get to all the hot spots to get them out.
“It took lots of water,” he said. “It was below zero that morning. Every firefighter had a coat of ice on them.”
Day said it appears the fire was electrical in origin and started on the outside wall of the house, went up the wall and into the attic. “There are old circuits carrying a modern load,” Day said.
He praised the volunteer firefighters who had to battle fire “all the way from the front to the back of the house. Our guys did a good job.”
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