BOISE (AP) — An explosion in a fireplace caused a fire that consumed a house and killed four people, the Idaho state fire marshal said.
The explosion, which occurred June 30 at Tamarack Resort, was ruled accidental, Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl said Thursday.
The fireplace on the main floor of the home was converted from propane-fueled to wood-burning in 2015, Sandahl said. During the conversion to wood, the propane line that fed the fireplace was left in place.
On the night of the accident, people in the home unknowingly turned on the gas line. This allowed gas to pool in a void behind the fireplace, which exploded when it reached burning paper left in the fireplace as kindling.
Officials declined to say whether the individual who converted the fireplace faces any liability in the explosion, citing “the potential of a civil case.”
Valley County Coroner Scott Carver identified the victims in July as Erin Smith, her 7-year-old daughter, Autumn Smith, James “Jim” Harper III and 14-year-old James “JJ” Harper IV. Smith and Harper served in the National Guard along with Smith’s husband, William “Mitch” Smith, who survived the fire.
Carver said Thursday the Smiths and the elder Harper likely died quickly in the explosion. JJ Harper’s autopsy showed soot in his lungs, indicating he had taken breaths after the explosion.