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Looking back on the Table Rock Fire ahead of wildfire season

It took an army of firefighters using every resource available to fight it. Their heroic efforts are credited with preventing the loss of dozens of nearby homes.

BOISE, Idaho — As part of Fire Awareness Week at KTVB, the team is looking back at major fires that have affected the Treasure Valley over the last several decades. 

We're looking back on how they started, the damage they caused and what we learned from them to be better prepared for the next big one.

Table Rock Fire- 2016

On the night of June 29, 2016, a massive fire broke out in the Boise Foothills at iconic Table Rock. The fire burned thousands of acres and a family's home that they had lived in for more than 60 years.

Steve Danielson's home had been the family's residence since the 1950s. The day after the fire, he surveyed the rubble and talked about the harrowing moments of the night before.

"The hill was on fire and my stepdaughter came in the house and yelled 'Get up and get out!'" Danielson said. "So we were yelling to get up and get out and got out of the house. Got in the car with the dogs, didn't know where the cats were and went down the hill."

It was later determined that the Table Rock fire was started with a Roman candle, a type of firework that ejects one or more stars or exploding shells. 

Dennis Doan, former chief of the Boise Fire Department, lived very close to Table Rock. He first got the call from his wife, who saw it start in their front yard.

It took an army of firefighters using every resource available to fight it. Their heroic efforts are credited with preventing the loss of dozens of nearby homes.

Nearly a year after the fire, 20-year-old Steve Kemp was charged with starting it. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and fined nearly $400,000 in restitution to the family that lost their home, the city of Boise, and Idaho Power.

Kemp has paid only a tiny fraction of the hefty fine in the last five years and has been placed back in custody several times as a result of lack of payments.

Doan, who is now the fire chief for the Gig Harbor Washington Fire Department, said his frustration continues to lie with the lack of firework enforcement on a law that is "written in black and white."

"Our attorney general read it and gave an opinion that our current state law in Idaho is that it is illegal to sell those illegal fireworks," he said. "That's crazy to say that it's illegal to sell illegal fireworks but the law is clear. It's not being enforced."  

Doan was an active participant in fire prevention proposals at the Statehouse while acting as Boise's fire chief and was frustrated by the Legislature's reluctance at taking away what many called "citizen's personal freedoms."

"I get it. I'm an American that loves the Fourth of July like everyone else, but where does your personal freedoms to set off fireworks start infringing on other people's freedoms?" Doan said. "Where does your right to fire off fireworks start infringing on other people's rights?"  

Every year brave and dedicated men and women put themselves in danger to keep us safe from fires like the Table Rock Fire. 

Be sure to tune into Wake Up Idaho every morning this week for more information on wildfires.

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