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UPS driver saves Ririe family from fire

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RIRIE – A local mother is praising the heroic actions of a United Parcel Service driver after he likely saved her and her sons from what could have been a deadly house fire.

Michelle Evans and her two boys were at their rural Ririe home on the Swan Valley Highway when the fire broke out around 2 a.m. May 20. Her husband was out of town.

Evans woke up when she heard her dogs barking outside.

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Michelle Evans was home with her boys when the fire broke out around 2 a.m. | Photo courtesy Michelle Evans.

“I ran to the window and saw something parked down the street that looked like a semi-truck,” Evans tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I almost went back to bed but thought twice. When I looked closer, I saw a man at the gate trying to push it open.”

Evans opened the window and asked what the man was doing.

“He yelled, ‘Get out of your house! Your house is on fire! You have to get out now!'” Evans recalls.

The man at the gate was Sheldon Bonnell, a freight driver for UPS. Every day he makes the early morning drive in his semi-truck from Idaho Falls to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and back again.

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Sheldon Bonnell has been a UPS freight driver for 16 years. He stopped to help when he saw the fire. | Photo courtesy Sheldon Bonnell.

“About two and a half miles from their home, I could see what I thought was a brush fire,” Bonnell says. “As I got closer, I realized it wasn’t a brush fire but an actual building.”

Bonnell, a UPS driver for the past 16 years, pulled off the road and saw the Evans’ garage behind the home fully engulfed in flames. Bonnell broke through the fence and yelled.

Large tree limbs above the garage were burning, and the siding on the house was melting.

Evans ran downstairs, grabbed her boys and bolted from the home.

Bonnell made sure the dogs were safe and carried the Evans’ pet lamb across the street as they all waited for fire crews to arrive.

“Inside I had no idea anything was going on,” Evans says. “Our house is stone, and we wouldn’t have heard anything until the fire was inside the house.”

Firefighters arrived 13 minutes after Bonnell stopped to help. Crews got control of the fire before it spread to the home but the garage, with multiple motorcycles inside, was considered a complete loss.

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Several motorcycles were inside the garage. | Photo courtesy Michelle Evans.

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The garage and everything inside is considered a complete loss. | Photo Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

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Siding on the side of the Evans home melted from the intense heat of the fire. | Photo by Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

Investigators believe a heat lamp warming chickens near the garage fell over and may have started the fire.

“The next car went by the house nine minutes later, so me being there at that particular moment was kind of lucky,” Bonnell says. “I’m so happy the Evans were able to get out safe and only lose their garage, if that’s what had to be lost.”

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Evans invited Bonnell to her home recently to thank him for saving her family. / Photo by Nate Eaton | EastIdahoNews.com

EastIdahoNews.com was there when Evans invited Bonnell to her home to thank him for stopping.

She says she will never be able to repay the kind driver and she knows that if he had kept driving, this story would likely have a tragic ending.

“He’s my hero,” she says. “I’ve never had a hero before, but I’d definitely say he saved me and my boys that night.”

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