Charlotte Fire 100% contained

66 homes destroyed

POCATELLO, Idaho - As of 8 a.m. Monday, the fire that destroyed 66 homes in the Pocatello area was 100 percent contained.

Monday will be the last day crews will be working on the fire, the Pocatello Fire Department announced. Crews have been patrolling the area, taking care of hot spots and doing rehabililitation on the bulldozer lines including a water break and seeding the dozer line.

Utility companies have been working around the clock to restore services, the fire department said. Idaho Power, Intermountain Gas, Suburban Propane and Mendehall out of Grace have restored service to all areas that can be connected. Other utilities and providers hope to finish their work by Monday.

Evacuees of the Charlotte Fire could return to their homes as of Sunday night, Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said at a town hall meeting. 

The Bannock County Commission bought $2,500 of grass/wildflower seed to help affected property owners in their restoration efforts. The seed can be obtained by contacting Pocatello Valley Fire Chief Karen Aguiler to schedule an appointment at (208) 221-3582 or 775-3581.

Residents will be required to show identification until Monday night in order to keep the affected area private for people. The roads will become public again at that time, Nielsen said. 

On Monday, the fire department urged residents returning to the area to be "very cautious," as there could be flare-ups, swirling dust, nails, sharp edges and unstable ground.

Mayor Brian Blad urged residents who need to rebuild to take their time and find a trusted contractor. He said he hopes that scams don't come in to the area, but that people need to be vigilant and careful and make sure they know who they are doing business with.

There were two fireworks violations during the day Sunday, said Lt. Paul Manning.

Pocatello announced Monday afternoon that fireworks would only be allowed in approved areas from noon to midnight on the Fourth.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has called twice to let victims know that he is concerned and is planning a visit after things calm down. Homeland Security also called to say the agency was very impressed. 

Crews worked through Saturday night and into Sunday and have put out all hot spots between the perimeter of the fire and 150 feet into the burn area.

Despite the ban on discharging fireworks, police cited 19 people for lighting fireworks off over the weekend, Lt. Paul Manning with Pocatello Police said in Sunday's press conference.

Manning said that any violations will be aggressively investigated and law enforcement has zero tolerance for people who choose to break the law.

Mayor Brian Blad said that barbecue grills are not included in the open fire ban, and that he is extremely disappointed that people have been lighting off fireworks.

As for why the ban on the sale of fireworks was lifted, Bannock County Commissioner Howard Manwaring said that the county's legal team advised them not to interrupt commerce as to prevent future lawsuits from lost sales. Commissioner Steve Hadley said that people can have a very enjoyable New Year's Eve with any fireworks they purchase.

Though residents can now access the Johnny Creek and Country Club areas, police are urging people who do not live in those areas to stay away, Idaho State Police Capt. Eric Dayley said. Not only are the roads still crowded with fire trucks, but police want to give residents the chance to react to what has happened in privacy, Dayley said. 

Pocatello Fire Department Chief David Gates said dead pets have been found in the burn area. Firefighters are leaving the animals in place and covering them with towels so that people can identify them, Gates said.

As for the cause of the fire, Nielsen said investigators are getting "very, very close." They are following up on every lead, and said some have fallen through, but he does not want to make a statement on cause until he is 100 percent sure, because of the weight the charges entail, Nielsen said. The person found responsible for starting the fire can be liable for the cost of loss, suppression and response, Gates said.

Idaho Power has 40 rigs restoring power in the area, going house to house, and residents said that Charlotte Drive has power. Suburban Propane and Intermountain Gas have also been in the area shutting utilities off and restoring them where applicable.

Phil Meador's annual "Biggest Show in Idaho" fireworks show is still scheduled for July 4. County commissioners said that Meador indicated that he wants to turn the show into a fundraising event for the fire victims, and that fire crews will be on scene to ensure safety during the show.

The Pocatello Lions Club has secured a $10,000 grant from Lions International that will function through the Red Cross and assist in getting people clothing, blankets, food, medication, glasses, hearing aids and cleaning supplies. People can go to the Red Cross station at the Clarion Inn on Monday morning to fill out a form to get funds for rebuilding. 

They said the fast moving Pocatello-area brush fire started Thursday. It ignited in the Mink Creek area south of Pocatello. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Twenty-nine outlying buildings, such as sheds, also have been destroyed.

At an information meeting for evacuees Friday night, the estimated cost of home damage was listed at $8 million.

Authorities said in a news conference earlier Friday that they have not had any reports of anybody dead or missing. There have also been no reports of looting of empty homes.

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad in a news conference Friday that the response alone will cost $1.5 million to $2 million.

"It is not going to be cheap," said Nielsen.

Crews from all over eastern Idaho have been aiding local firefighters. The only injuries reported are three firefighters suffering from dehydration.

People who are looking for more information can call the sheriff's information hotline at (208) 221-8988.

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