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Idaho Youth Ranch focuses on the future after suffering massive fire

KTVB got a behind the scenes look at the damage done to the Idaho Youth Ranch's Boise distribution center by the July 18 fire.

BOISE, Idaho — Around 1:45 the afternoon of Monday, July 18, a huge plume of thick, black smoke rose above the Boise Bench. A fire fueled by tons of donated clothing and household goods was tearing through the Idaho Youth Ranch distribution center's outside yard on West Irving Street. Over the next several hours and into the next morning firefighters poured 638,000 gallons of water on the fire.

Fire investigators ruled the cause of the fire undetermined. Boise Fire says they were not able to pinpoint a cause because of the amount of water used and because they had to remove items from the area where the fire started in order to put out the flames. Fire investigators did rule out a few potential causes of the fire, including fireworks, battery failure, smoking ash, electrical problems, operating equipment and incendiary.

It is a devastating loss for the Youth Ranch. The fire destroyed everything outside in the yard and smoke damaged everything inside the nearly 100,000 square foot warehouse, meaning it all has to be thrown away. Now Youth Ranch leaders are looking forward to rebuilding the facility and restocking their shelves and racks.

The Idaho Youth Ranch is a nonprofit that offers emergency shelter, residential care, youth and family therapy, job readiness training, adoption services, and more for kids and their families. It relies heavily on its 24 thrift stores around the state for funding for its youth programs and services. The damaged distribution center provides a large chunk of the goods those stores sell.

Youth Ranch CEO Scott Curtis doesn't have an exact figure, but says the loss of donated clothing and household items is in the millions.

The individual Youth Ranch thrift stores have remained open. Curtis says those stores are now able to start taking donations again. That's because Interfaith Sanctuary Homeless Shelter has offered the use of its new location on State Street as a temporary warehouse. Curtis also says that will allow them to keep their staff fully employed. He says it will take up to two years to be fully stocked up again in the main warehouse, but they'll be running at full capacity in their stores very soon.

KTVB recently got our first look at the extensive damage. While Scott Curtis showed us around, he talked about that crazy afternoon, the loss they suffered and how they plan to move forward.

You can watch the whole tour and interview by clicking the story above. Excerpts are below.

Doug Petcash: "We see the sprinklers going back here. Why are those still on."

Scott Curtis: "Those have been left on, these 1,200 pound bales of clothing were all ready to be shipped and those created like fire briquettes from this thing. So we've needed to keep making sure no other fire starts out here."

Doug Petcash: "How devastating is this. Have you even been able to calculate how much product you've lost?"

Scott Curtis: "The first thing that impacts the devastation is we've had zero loss of life and no staff members injured as they evacuated. I keep repeating that because it really is an incredible part of this story. The financial devastation is pretty significant. We've lost all the materials out here that burned, but also the smoke because it entered our warehouse in thick clouds, it has actually made everything inside the warehouse not useable. So that a year's worth of inventory I talked about is all lost."

Doug Petcash: "Scott, all of this stuff looks pristine, but you've got to get rid of all of it?"

Scott Curtis: "Yeah. The inspectors came through and tested it and they said all the materials have to go. We can't sell it."

Doug Petcash: "How much is in here?"

Scott Curtis: "From a volume standpoint, I can't tell you. But from a value standpoint, probably a couple million dollars."

Doug Petcash: "It's sad that all of this is gone."

Scott Curtis: "It is sad. And part of what's sad for us is one of the things we love about the Youth Ranch is so many of our communities trust us to reuse their goods. It keeps these goods out of the landfill. It offers them at low prices to people who need them, and people feel good having their stuff reused. So we really feel terrible, and we know people are going to help us build it back up. But also I think it really educates the community on how much their goods are valued and how many ways we have to re-use them."

Doug Petcash: "What is the plan for this location?"

Scott Curtis: "Great question. First thing is the disaster removal. It's the removal of all the material you see that's been burned and all of the removal inside of the buildings. Then there's another inspection of all the facilities to make sure that all of the buildings are structurally sound, and then we get to move in to how do we reopen this and rehab the buildings and also make some improvements for the future."

The fire at the distribution center is certainly a setback, but it happened during what is an exciting time for the Idaho Youth Ranch. Construction has been underway on what will be the nonprofit's new psychiatric residential treatment facility on its property near Middleton in Canyon County. It's called the Residential Center for Healing and Resilience.

As our media partners at the Idaho Press reported, the Idaho Youth Ranch raised $27 million in private funding to build it. It will provide residential treatment to 100 kids a year. It's scheduled to open in the summer of 2023.

On this edition of Viewpoint, we look at the impacts of the fire as well as the services the new facility will offer Idaho kids and the overall mission of the Idaho Youth Ranch.

Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB.

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