The following is a news release and photo from the city of Idaho Falls.
IONA – Shortly after 5:30 p.m. on July 2, the Idaho Falls Fire Department and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the 6000 block of East Panorama Drive in Bonneville County after an individual saw smoke coming from the top of a house and called the Bonneville County/Idaho Falls Dispatch Center.
A severe thunderstorm warning from Blackfoot north to Rigby was issued by the U.S. National Weather Service in Pocatello just after 5 p.m. During the fire investigation, an individual reported witnessing a bolt of lightning hit near the home.
None of the occupants were home when the fire started. All pets, with the exception of two cats, fled from the home without injury before emergency personnel arrived. The two cats were later found by firefighters safe inside the garage after the fire was extinguished.
Deputies from the BCSO closed roads for traffic control. Rocky Mountain Power and Intermountain Gas responded to secure utilities. Two ambulances, three engines, the ladder truck, a battalion chief, and both deputy chiefs responded from the IFFD.
On arrival, firefighters reported a working fire in a large two-story home with a walkout basement. There was heavy smoke and flames coming from the roof. Firefighters quickly made entry and began pulling ceilings to access the fire, along with using hoses to fight the fire from inside the home, while others attacked the fire from the outside.
The wind, construction features, and the way in which the structure was positioned made fighting the blaze challenging. Around 6:30 p.m., firefighters changed their offensive interior strategy to a temporary defensive exterior strategy while roof components failed from the fire burning in the attic. They then reverted to the interior offensive as conditions improved with exterior water application.
The home was a split-level home with several rooms, totaling about 5,000 square feet. The fire burned through both the second-story roof and the lower level roof, extending to the attic and throughout every room on both levels before it was knocked down around 6:40 p.m. The basement had significant water and smoke damage.
There were no injuries to civilians. One firefighter was taken to the hospital with minor injuries where he was later treated and released.
A fire investigator from the IFFD’s Fire Prevention Division responded and officially determined that the cause of the fire was from lightning. Damages were estimated at approximately $600,000 for the structure and $200,000 for the contents inside the home.
Operations personnel remained on scene for several hours making sure the fire was completely extinguished and there were no hot spots. The Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho responded to the scene to provide assistance to those displaced from the fire as the home is uninhabitable. The Red Cross was also notified.