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‘Look out for each other’: How close-knit NW Boise came together when fire approached

It didn’t take long for the Goose Fire to race across the ridges of the foothills to Old Hill Road.

Residents of the semi-rural neighborhood on Boise’s northwestern edge hopped on the phone with each other up and down the street as the fire burned its way southeast from West Goose Creek Road near the City of Eagle to the hills above their homes Wednesday night. With the fire roaring above them and officials encouraging residents to abandon their homes and evacuate, a handful of neighbors banded together to keep their homes safe while they waited for backup from the fire crews fighting elsewhere.

[Boise Fire responds to fire at old Valley View Elementary School]

Some stayed behind

The 400-acre fire, started by fireworks and fueled by dry conditions and heavy winds, consumed the sagebrush in the foothills and trees along the edge of the dry bed of the Farmer’s Union Canal. It eventually jumped the canal as trees went up and sparks flew hundreds of feet into the air. Neighbors could hear the roaring of the fire coming down the hill and the sky was lit bright orange as it crackled closer to their homes.

Standing near the still-smoldering ashes of the fire Thursday evening, Northwest Neighborhood Association President Richard Llewellyn told BoiseDev all of the neighbors who remained to try and protect their homes always had an open escape route into the nearby irrigated field and didn’t endanger their lives to fight the fire.

He and other neighbors vigorously thanked the firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management and other jurisdictions who came to protect their homes, but he said the neighbors’ willingness to stay and do what they could before help came is because of their “more traditional community, not just one on paper.”

“We know as being Idahoans we have to look out for each other,” he said. “We can’t rely on some service to step up. I was told to get your valuables and go and leave, and it was like ‘well, people who grew up in areas like this that’s not the attitude we have. We’re going to fight and our neighbors are going to help us.’”

The Goose Fire in the hills above Old Hill Road. Courtesy: Neil Parker

A close-knit street acted fast

It was all hands on deck as the flames jumped Old Hill Road. Llewellyn got out his chain saw to try and establish a fire break near the canal with the help of an ex-firefighter who stopped to help. Jennifer and Mike Szwec came up from Duncan Lane with over a dozen fire extinguishers to pass out to neighbors, while Neil Parker wet down the grass near his heavily forested home with a hose. 

Neighbors who had animals quickly evacuated their horses, dogs, cats, and other livestock to nearby properties with extra pens. As the fire burned, passersby on bicycles and in other cars pulled up offering to help their efforts. Jennifer Szwec said the street’s relationships from using the canal during the irrigation season and during other events helped pull together.

“Our water all comes in at the same time,” she said, Thursday evening. “We are trying to keep our ground green, we’re trying to grow gardens, we’re trying to raise livestock and it requires us to communicate… We have all of these natural elements that we constantly check on each other about.”

By the end of the night, the fire burned all the way down to the edge of the Prominence construction site along Old Hill Road Parkway and past Parker’s home. No homes or lives were lost in the fire, with the exception of one outbuilding, according to BLM.

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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