Five Years Later: A Look at Recovery Efforts for the Charlotte Fire

Charlotte Fire Five Years Later

POCATELLO - It's been five years since one of the biggest fires in Bannock County ripped through the community, destroying more than 60 homes and scorching more than one thousand acres.

Burned Juniper trees are still scarring the land, a reminder of that devastating day to the neighbors who lost everything on June 28, 2012.

Neighbor Jerry Ransbottom said he and his wife have been able to recover from the Charlotte Fire disaster after rebuilding their home, and helping several neighbors design their new homes as well.

"There was nothing left of our house," Ransbottom said, noting the temperatures in their neighborhood reached up to 1,500 to 2,000 degrees. "It was just a pile of ashes. No jewelry or anything. Everything melted."

He said, although there had been a fair share of challenges for the community after the fire, most people have been able to rebuild their lives.

In August following the fire, there was a monumental flood that washed away the soil, flooding roads with water and rocks, and even washing away the retaining wall of their home.

He said, over the past five years, some neighbors have come and gone.

"My daughter-in-law's father was trapped behind the fire line. They had to come down right through the fire and he said he's never seen anything like it before. He said the (Juniper) trees were just exploding."

Although everyone survived the fire itself, the health impacts afterward took a toll on some people. Ransbottom said, some of his neighbors who became good friends, passed away months after the fire struck.

But, out of the ashes, Ransbottom said something happened he counts as a blessing.

"You miss some things but the blessings are much greater than that, now. We didn't know anybody who lived out here before but we know everybody who lives out here, now."

He said, for the first time, neighbors came together to help each other pull through the worst experience of their lives.

Idaho Fish and Game's Jenny Jackson said the wildlife impact was minimal. 

"The greatest impact from that fire was really on the people - they lost structures, homes, pets, and they lost memories," Jackson said. "Our wildlife continues to grow in that area and the surrounding area."

She said, after the fire, there was an effort to push deer out to areas where they could safely find food resources. The organization did this by setting-up feeding stations leading them to those areas.

She said IDFG worked with Bannock County, NRCS, BLM, Century High School, and the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation to help re-seed the area, planting shrubs and plants to help re-vegetate the areas that were hit.

Now, several neighbors are taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Neighbor Brandon Stucki said he's clearing some of the tall grass outside of his home, in an effort to assist the county who was out on Tuesday doing the same along that region.

"With the fire conditions going on right now and with the dry climate, I decided to come out here with my weed whacker and clear some of the grass," Stucki said.

As for the Ransbottoms, he said he has no plans to move, because after all, he said that area will always be home.

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