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Fire destroys Homedale ICU nurse's 'dream home'

Chantell Lee and her family had only been living in their Homedale house for less than a year when a fire Wednesday morning severely damaged it.

HOMEDALE, Idaho — An ICU nurse and her family are left picking up the pieces after a fire believed to be started by a lamp outside severely damaged their house in Homedale.

"I know it's things that can be replaced, I know it's physical and it's materialistic items but it's our home, it's our memories, it's everything and it's gone," Chantell Lee said. "It's just going to take a lot to get over."

Lee added she and her family had only been living in the home for less than a year and said it gave them stability, because they were living out of an RV waiting for their home to be finished.

The fire happened Wednesday morning while Lee's husband, Codi, was dropping their two daughters off at school. Lee was at home with her three-year-old son getting ready for the day when she smelt a strong smoke smell. That is when she knew something was strange.

Lee made her way into the kitchen where she saw a large, black smoke coming from the microwave.

"Instinct was, 'Well, what's wrong with the microwave? Did my son put a fork in there or something?' I opened it and it threw me back and fire came out," Lee said.

Lee believes the fire was started by a heat lamp on their rabbit's cage outside, something she and her husband already did not feel comfortable having in the first place.

"We did have it clamped, we had it how it should be on the wiring - everything was set," Lee said. "The only thing I can think of is they jumped up and must have knocked it down, it landed in the hay and it started the blaze."

Lee said she immediately went outside to where the cage was and saw the fire from the ground to her roof. She quickly grabbed her son and two dogs and got in her car to drive away, but the garage would not open. It forced her to change plans and simply run outside to nearby safety away from the house to call 911.

Lee, her son and two dogs were able to get out safely. However, the family's rabbits were killed in the fire.

"I just thought, "Oh my god my house is on fire, this can't be real. What is happening?'" Lee said.

While watching Homedale Fire crews work to put out the fire, Lee said all she was able to think about was how she and her husband just built this home. It was supposed to be her escape from the stress and devastation she's endured the past few years working as an ICU nurse at St. Luke's Health.

"Now that that's come crashing down I feel like everything is just piled on so heavy," Lee said. "With COVID-19 ramping back up again and the hospitals getting to the point of full capacity yet again, I know what I'm going to return to on top of that and it's a lot to take on."

Lee said she never imagined this happening to her and said she felt unprepared when a tragedy like this happens. She would like to encourage others to change that mindset and put a plan in place for fire safety, especially if they have children.

"If this were to happen to us in the middle of the night, what would you do?" Lee said. "I'm really good at stopping and making a decision quickly, being a nurse I have to and I can't panic. But I was so panicked, you just stop and you don't know what to do. If I would have stopped too long I wouldn't have made it out, it was that close."

Lee said the damage to the inside of their house is severe, to the point where she and her husband have to renovate it almost entirely. They are still trying to figure out a timeline of when they can move back in, but believe it could take up to a year. Lee added when they do move back in, they plan on installing fire ladders in each room upstairs and getting fire extinguishers.

The family is currently living in Lee's parents' RV in Caldwell until they can figure out a more long-term housing solution.

A friend of Lee's has set up a GoFundMe for the family. Lee said she is grateful for her friends, family and community support during this "unimaginable" time.

Homedale Fire Department was not able to give details about the fire.

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