Keep Your Heads Up All, It Could be Much Worse Home, Saved from Foreclosure, Seized by Fire

By Nate Poppino – Times-News writer

Firefighters prepare to battle a blaze Sunday morning at 341 Birch St. S. in Kimberly. Members of the Rock Creek Fire District, Twin Falls Fire Department and Salmon Tract Rural Fire District fought the fire with about five engines and tankers. (ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News)

Perhaps, Art Cruz said, he’s reached the bottom of his woes.

“What else can go wrong right now?” he said Sunday afternoon, shortly after a fire tore through his home.

Just two weeks before, Cruz said, he had paid off nearly $10,000 he owed on his house at 341 Birch St. S. in Kimberly, saving it from foreclosure. Family members had all pitched in funds, and all Cruz awaited was the letter from his bank saying he was set.

Then, early Sunday morning, he and his wife awoke to the sound of their carbon-monoxide alarm — purchased because of the home’s fireplace, which had been turned off for at least four hours. The family opened windows and doors and set up two fans to clear out the air before calling police and fire non-emergency numbers for advice.

Then the alarm stopped.

“We panicked for nothing,” Cruz recalled the family saying. “Nothing’s wrong, it’s all right.”

Cruz’s wife still wasn’t comfortable sleeping at the house and was worried about the couple’s children. So they agreed to stay in a motel for a few hours, come back and see how things looked. They left the windows and doors open to keep things ventilated.

Another four hours passed, and the couple woke again to a call saying a neighbor saw too much smoke coming out of the home’s chimney. The family arrived back at the house just a few minutes after firefighters did. They had a front-row seat as the fire consumed everything over the next two hours, despite the efforts of the Rock Creek and Salmon Tract rural fire protection districts and the Twin Falls Fire Department.

It wasn’t clear Sunday afternoon what might have started the fire, including if someone could have wandered inside during the night. The basement held the home’s furnace, water heater and water softener, Cruz said. Firefighters will likely call in the state fire marshal today to investigate.

“They’ve lost everything,” said Greg Vawser, assistant chief for Rock Creek, which on Sunday was trying to connect Cruz with the Red Cross.

That left Cruz, who didn’t have insurance, struggling to figure out what to do next. His family likely lost their birth certificates, passports and other important documents, he said. Friends took them to the Kimberly Elementary School for a bit and pitched in for new clothes — they were all still in pajamas. Shortly before 4 p.m., he was in Twin Falls looking for medical supplies for his children, a nearly 1-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son with pneumonia. Then, he said, he’d head back to Kimberly and see what his options were.

“It doesn’t matter what I do or think, I’m still going to have to fix it myself,” he said.

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