Most of Idaho town destroyed by fire

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by Scott Evans

NWCN.com

Posted on October 17, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 6:58 PM

HOWE, Idaho -- A storm that made its way across Idaho Tuesday created significant problems for the small eastern Idaho town of Howe, about 70 miles outside of Idaho Falls. A fire broke out inside a cafe that's been vacant for several months. The wind then spread that fire to nearby buildings.

Now, there’s not much left of downtown Howe. The fire that started Tuesday afternoon spread so quickly that there wasn't much anyone could do against the flames and wind. Now, the reality of a town destroyed is just beginning to set in.

Howe is a town that didn't have much before the fire. A handful of buildings made up downtown, but a tough economy forced all the businesses to close months ago.

"The whole town of Howe burned down. It's been here a long time. I was born and raised here, so it's a big deal," said Amanda Teeter, who owned the Little Lost Store before it shut down.

The last time she saw her building it was just fine.

"We had all the brands up there,” said Teeter. “We lost a lot of history with that store.”

In all, the fire destroyed six buildings, but the focus Wednesday, the day after the fire, is on what was not destroyed.

"When I talk about it I still get shaky," said Lou Jones.

Lou Jones lives less than a football field away from where the fire broke out.

"The wind was blowing so hard the tumbleweeds would catch fire and take it everywhere. As you can see the whole town caught fire, except me," said Jones.

With the closest fire department 15 minutes away, she and others were left to fight the fire by themselves.

"It was just like back in the 1800s, people grabbing buckets and throwing water on the fire. Doing anything that they could do to help their neighbor," said Jim Blair, Deputy Fire Chief, INL Fire Department.

With winds pushing 60 miles per hour, the flames burnt the leaves off of trees 50 to 100 feet high. But Jones and her friends stood their ground between her wood home and the fire.

"Everybody just gathered around. There were people here stamping out hot spots and watering down hot spots and shoveling dirt on it. It was astonishing. The reason it's standing there now is because those people came," said McDonald.

"You could feel it, and that's when the sheriff said, 'You have to leave Lou,'" said Jones.

"Luckily they saved Lou's,” said Teeter. “Lou's, the school and the church are the most important. So they were able to save those, so that's good.”

There is still a lot of clean up to do on this fire. Many of the buildings continued to put off smoke into Wednesday afternoon. Once the smoke is out, the buildings will be torn down, with no plans to rebuild.

Howe is a town with only two full-time residents, while 175 people live just outside city limits.

Fire investigators are still on scene trying to figure out what started the fire. It could be days, or even weeks, before they get an answer.

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