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Cause of fire at Idaho Youth Ranch outlet yard ruled undetermined

Boise Fire Department ruled the cause of the fire as 'undetermined' on Thursday due to the efforts used to extinguish it.

BOISE, Idaho — A fire that broke out in the outlet yard of the Idaho Youth Ranch on July 18 that kept Boise Fire Department crews at the scene through the night and into the next morning was ruled as "undetermined."

On Thursday, BFD tweeted they completed their investigation alongside Boise Police Department into the cause of the fire at the Idaho Youth Ranch outlet yard.

The cause was ruled undetermined due to the amount of water used and the "removal of items from the area of origin in order to extinguish the fire." Putting the fire out used 638,000 gallons of water, they said.

Determining the cause was impractical, BFD tweeted, although they were able to eliminate a few causes, like fireworks, battery failure, smoking ash, electrical problems, operating equipment and incendiary. 

Investigators had to sort through a large amount of material at the scene, according to a Boise Fire news release sent July 19.

The fire was reported around 1:47 p.m. at 5465 W. Irving Street, the location of the Idaho Youth Ranch warehouse, between Orchard Street and Curtis Road. Irving Street was closed between Orchard Street and Curtis Road until after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. The Boise Fire Department is asking neighbors to stay away from smoke that is still lingering, as it may be toxic and unsafe to breathe.

Thick, black smoke was visible across much of the Boise area as the fire erupted Monday afternoon. Because of heavy fire conditions, firefighters began attacking the fire from the outside and worked to protect nearby buildings.

"This one [warehouse] has pretty much collapsed," Boise Fire Division Chief of Operations Aaron Hummel said during a press conference. "That's where it sounds like the fire probably originated."

The Idaho Youth Ranch building was also damaged.

No civilians were injured, but three firefighters have been treated for injuries; one was taken to the hospital and has since been released, one was treated at the scene and sent home, and one was treated at the scene for a heat-related injury and released back to work.

"With this large of a fire and due to the temperature outside, a lot of times the firefighters will struggle with heat-related injuries," Hummel said, adding the fire was upgraded to a third alarm, bringing additional crews to the scene.

Units responding included 16 Boise Fire engines, three ladder trucks, five command officers, one rehab unit, fire investigators, Ada County Paramedics and Boise Police.

Scott Curtis, the CEO of the Youth Ranch, said the fire appeared outside the building near a carport container and spread quickly. Youth Ranch staff were evacuated to a grassy field Monday afternoon.

"We can't tell you everything that's burning, but with all the petrochemical components of plastics and so forth, you really don't want to be in that smoke." Hummel said. "It's one of the reasons we do the notification for the area, to help people have awareness and to stay out of it."

Credit: Logan Schenk

Curtis said the extent of the damage to the Idaho Youth Ranch property is currently unknown, although it has affected some of the donated goods.

He estimates Idaho Youth Ranch lost several months worth of goods. Even though they are not sure how to process upcoming donations yet, he said they are grateful for any help the community provides. 

"I don't know how we're going to get through it. I'm 100-percent confident that we are going to, and it's because so many people support this mission and want to be a part," Curtis said.

Idaho Youth Ranch thrift stores remain open.

This is a developing story and we will update as more information becomes available.

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