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'Don't risk other people's lives and their property for fun': Families in Weiser, Star say fireworks may be to blame for fires near homes

Two families in two different Idaho cities nearly lost their homes to fires over the holiday weekend, and both feel the incidents could have been prevented.

WEISER, Idaho — Fireworks lit the skies throughout the Gem State on Sunday, but according to some residents in Weiser and Star, some Fourth of July celebrations turned into firework shows gone wrong.

Mary Sanchez-Chapman, a Weiser resident, and her family were in awe of the colors lighting up the sky in celebration of the holiday. Soon, however, the vibrant colors began to fall from the sky and head straight for their home.

"As soon as we saw the smoke, it was just downhill from there,” Sanchez-Chapman said. “Right away we smell the smoke and we are already sort of triggered by that because we have lived through a house fire before. Immediately we start thinking about our grandma because she can’t move. I was just thinking, 'I am not going to have a home tomorrow' or 'Where are we going to go?'” 

Sanchez-Campbell and her family were not the only ones threatened by fireworks. In Star, a late-night fire started in a resident's backyard.

“It’s just a lot going through your head, you know? And then we have got all the animals to thinking about,” Star resident Mark Fish said.

At around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, Fish said he noticed a large, orange glow on his property line, which he eventually realized was a fire.

When he called the Star Fire Department, Fish said a crew was already on their way. Within ten minutes of arriving on the scene, crews had completely contained the fire.

Fish said he is quite certain the dangerous and potentially damaging incident could have been avoided.

“Watch what you are doing with the fireworks," he said. "I mean, stuff happens, and it happens every year but people don’t care. They just want to do what they want to do."

Firefighters also urge people to be extra cautious with any fire during the extreme heatwave. While luck might have won in this case, it will not always be the case for some, like an elderly Weiser woman who was rescued from her home after it caught fire, which ultimately became a total loss.

“Be careful with fire. It affects their people, it’s not just fun. It is fun to do but it has a downfall as well, especially this time of year,” said John Stuart, assistant chief of the Weiser Rural Fire District.

The fire burned 60 acres destroying one home. Fortunately, fire crews were able to save others, like Sanchez-Campbell and her family, who are counting their blessings.

“I was really young when our house burned down. We were all really young and so seeing that again was just really triggering, you know?" she said. "We have these people telling us we have to leave, but you can’t get your head straight. It’s very triggering you know you have PTSD from all of this experience and you just think you are going to lose everything again."

Like Fish, Sanchez-Campbell believes this incident could have been prevented.

“It’s not worth it. Don’t risk other people's lives and their property for fun when you can just go into town and watch those," she said. "It’s really not worth it.”

The Star Fire Department has not responded to KTVB’s request regarding the cause of the fires. In Weiser, firefighters have not determined a cause to the fire, but they said fireworks were reported by witnesses in the area where the fire likely started.

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