A large fire burning in Howe destroyed at least six buildings Tuesday, and was threatening more. State Highway 33 into Howe was closed.
It started at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday from unknown causes. The flames have destroyed the Howe Cafe and Little Lost Store. Wind speeds were at 30 mph with gusts of 45 mph.
Ric Katseanes of Idaho Falls said he was passing through and noticed smoke coming out of the roof of the cafe. He checked it out and found a fire was burning in the restaurant. He called 911 and he said Idaho National Laboratory firefighters were the first on the scene about 30 minutes later. Local firefighters also arrived.
By that time, the cafe and the Little Lost Store next door were totally destroyed. The fire jumped across the highway, burning the Pancheris' cafe, which was fully engulfed as of about 4:45 p.m.
Katseanes said the fire also spread from the Howe Cafe toward the mountain nearby.
Spencer Larsen, the Butte County school superintendent, said the flames were threatening Howe Elementary School, an old building that does not have a sprinkler system. The students were already out of school when the fire started at 3:30 p.m., but teachers left as the fire approached.
One house was evacuated.
Crews will work overnight to restore power to the city. The fire marshal will be in Howe on Wednesday morning to begin investigating a cause.