Officers Recall Rescues, Horror of Southeast Boise Fire
Boise, Sept. 5, 2008 - In the days following the Oregon Trail Fire of August 25, 2008, incredible stories of survival emerged from the victims of the fire, that destroyed ten homes and severely damaged nine others in a Southeast Boise neighborhood. Boise Police and Boise Firefighters also have stories of heroism that came from the fight with the flames.
Boise Police had 13 officers taken to two local hospitals for treatment of smoke inhalation. Meridian Police had five officers treated. All the officers were injured while assisting with evacuations and traffic control in and around the immediate fire area.
"We don’t like to place our officers in this type of danger. We know there are potentially serious hazards in breathing in smoke and chemicals from a house fire," said Boise Chief of Police Michael Masterson. "But there are times when lives are at stake and our officers knowingly place themselves in jeopardy for others."
51 Boise Police Officers were on scene that night helping with evacuations and traffic control. Ada County Sheriff's deputies and Meridian Police Officers were also on scene for assistance.
As Boise officers focused on fire evacuations, Meridian, Garden City, Ada County, and Idaho State Police assisted with other calls throughout the city. Boise Police extend sincere thanks to those agencies for their assistance during this extraordinary call.
Of all the heroic actions performed by emergency responders that night, Boise Police chose two, Officer Jason Rose and Officer Chris Davis to share their stories with the community through the media. These two officers heard the dispatch call and actually arrived in the burning neighborhood before the first fire engines. These officers truly risked their lives in service to their community.
"Officer Rose and Officer Davis are heroes," said Chief Masterson. "We appreciate our local media in helping us tell their stories to the community. They not only have harrowing tales of danger and heroics, but they truly represent the dedication, commitment, and service provided to this community from the Boise Police Department."
The following two articles are courtesy of the Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press Tribune newspapers.
September 04, 2008
Two Boise officers cheated death in Oregon Trail Fire
Chris Davis and Jason Rose, the first police on the scene, helped evacuate people from the inferno.
Boise police Officer Chris Davis was running as fast as he could Aug. 25, pounding on doors and urging Oregon Trail Heights residents to get out of their homes, when he realized the fire ripping through the subdivision had caught him.
He was on fire.
"I could smell it. I could feel the heat from my uniform," said Davis, a 33-year-old father of two young children, who flung himself against a house and ran through a sprinkler to extinguish the flames on his back.
The scene was chaotic, as propane tanks exploded on home decks, vehicle tires melted in the heat, and residents rushed about to gather up family members, pets and other valuables.
The flames, smoke and embers were overwhelming.
"It literally looked like a blow torch blowing across the road," Davis said of the flames fanned by 50 mph wind gusts. "The fire was so loud - it sounded like a freight train."
Davis and fellow Officer Jason Rose, the first two emergency workers at the scene, spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday about their experiences.
Rose was exiting a house when it literally exploded into flames, knocking him to the ground. The fire melted his uniform and singed his hair, said the 36-year-old father of four.
"It was as if a mule kicked me in the back. ... That's how close I got to getting fried," he said.
Rose and Davis began evacuating residents a couple of minutes before the first fire trucks arrived. They were among 13 Boise police officers treated for smoke inhalation.
"I think the worst thing for me were my eyes. They were blood red with a brown center," said Davis, who was grateful to a Sweetwater Drive resident who handed him a respirator amid the mayhem. "My vision was blurry for a couple days."
The fire began shortly before 7 p.m. Aug. 25 on Idaho Power Co. property near Amity Road and Holcomb Drive. It killed a woman, destroyed 10 homes and caused major damage to nine homes.
Rose, who lives on the east side of Columbia Village, was in the area to help his wife secure his family's trampoline, which he feared might blow about in the windstorm that had kicked up that night.
In eight years with the Boise police, Davis, a member of the department's Special Operations Unit, had never seen anything like the "tunnel of fire" on Sweetwater or the "tidal wave of flames" coming over two houses on Immigrant Pass Court.
Rose and Davis knocked on doors along Sweetwater Drive, working their way toward Immigrant Pass Court.
Davis said he met Peter Ryder outside Ryder's Immigrant Pass Court home. Ryder told Davis his wife, Mary Ellen, was inside the house. But it was too late.
"The house literally exploded," Davis said.
Mary Ellen Ryder, a Boise State University professor, perished in the fire.
Davis and Rose said fire and smoke blocked their exit from Immigrant Pass Court. They drove through the concrete barrier of a walking path to escape the blaze.
"It was either drive through that or abandon the car," Davis said.
He and Rose took a couple of days off work and were back on the job Monday. On Wednesday, the two officers downplayed their roles.
"There's nobody in our department who wouldn't do the same exact thing," Rose said.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413
Officers recall horror of Boise fire
Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Pair who went door-to-door amid growing inferno describe scene: 'It was like being shot at'
BOISE — Two police officers who helped evacuate houses during the deadly Southeast Boise fire last month shared their story with the media Wednesday at the site of the blaze that destroyed 10 homes.
Boise Police Officers Jason Rose and Chris Davis all but had the shirts burned off their backs and ended up in the hospital after going door-to-door to get residents out of their houses. The Aug. 25 wildfire also damaged nine other homes on the rim of a Boise bench.
The officers described a tunnel of fire on the street where the homes burned, backyard propane tanks exploding, tires melting and houses blowing up from the flames.
“It was like being shot at,” Davis said.
“It was absolutely unreal,” Rose added. “It was kind of hypnotic. (The fire) was alive. It was breathing like it kind of had a purpose.”
Rose and Davis tried to get into the home where Boise State University professor Mary Ellen Ryder was killed. They met Ryder's husband, Pete Ryder, as he ran out of the house, they said. But the fire had engulfed the home by the time they tried to get to the only person who died in the blaze.
Rose said he didn't know why Ryder was not able to get out of the home.
“Everything happened so fast, I don't know,” Rose said.
Rose and Davis were inside several homes when they caught fire. At one point a home exploded into flames just as Davis ran out of its front door.
“It was as if a mule kicked me in the back,” Davis said. He said the back of his shirt “melted.”
The smoke was so thick at one point Rose said he could barely see the lights flashing on his squad car in the street as he stood on the sidewalk.
Both officers spent hours at a local hospital getting checked out for smoke inhalation. Davis said that after jogging recently, he still detected a “campfire” taste in his mouth.
“These officers truly risked their lives,” Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson said. More than 50 police officers from all across the valley responded to the disaster.
Asked if they would take the same action again, Davis was quick to answer.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I mean, it's our job.”