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POCATELLO, Idaho - Fire managers said 66 homes were lost in a fast moving Pocatello-area brush fire 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. Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad in a news conference Friday that the response alone will cost $1.5 million to $2 million. There is no estimate yet on the cost of property damage. "It is not going to be cheap," said Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen. Nielsen said 17 investigators from throughout eastern Idaho are looking into the cause of the fire, as well as gathering data to help assess the damage and categorize which homes have been affected.
Crews from all over eastern Idaho have been aiding local firefighters. On Friday, emergency crews dealt with hot spots and flare-ups. "It's a long ways from being out, event though we don't see big 40-foot flames," said Blad on Friday. Some residents were being allowed back to their homes. The fire is being called the Charlotte Fire because it started near Charlotte Drive and North Mink Creek Road shortly before 3 p.m. The cause of the fire is still unknown but is believed to be human caused, fire managers said. At 11 p.m. Thursday, the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center said the fire had burned an estimated 1,038 acres. Fire crews were out all night Thursday putting out hot spots and are still working on the fire. They are urging residents to stay away from the evacuated areas. The Bannock County Sheriff's Office evacuated people who live in the Mink Creek, Johnny Creek and Gibson Jack areas. If further evacuations are needed, homeowners will be notified through reverse 911 calls, said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad. An evacuation center is set up by the American Red Cross at Idaho State University's Holt Arena.
Earilier Thursday, food and water was donated by area restaurants, including Bridge Restaurant, Smith's and Home Depot at Century High School.
Portneuf Medical Center had declared a Code Black and enacted its emergency plan. That meant all staff at the hospital had to remain there. The Code Black was lifted Thursday night. The hospital reported two trauma cases, but it is unknown if either were fire-related.
Multiple agencies from around the area responded to the fire. Equipment came from Nevada and the central Idaho/Twin Falls areas, said Ballard.
Bannock County commissioners held an emergency meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, where they passed two resolutions: one declaring a state of emergency, which will allow the county to ask for help from federal and state governments if needed, and the other banning all fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county, as well as open fires. The ban will not affect Independence Day fireworks shows in cities. It will last until further notice.