A sea of volunteers clad in yellow vests swarmed through the area that burned near Pocatello Saturday to help clean up the area. Some 2,000 volunteers helped. The Charlotte Fire burned more than 1,000 acres and destroyed 66 homes, damaging many others.
Volunteers came from around Eastern Idaho to cut down burned trees and help get construction crews access to damaged houses. Seventy property owners registered for help on Saturday.
Kenneth Stucki organized the event. He's the president of the local Church of Latter Day Saints in the area that burned. He reached out to every property owner whose home was damaged.
“It’s just a huge, massive requirement on all of the property owners to put back what took decades and in some cases hundreds of years to get to that point and then all of a sudden within a few hours, it was all gone,” Stucki says.
Stucki says volunteer efforts will continue through smaller projects. He's speaking with homeowners to see what help they need in the future.
The cost of the clean up Saturday was minimal, thanks to volunteers. Some tree-cutting services worked for free, and the city waived dump fees at the landfill. Volunteers brought chainsaws and trucks with them.
Sheriff Lorin Nielsen says he’s proud of Eastern Idaho for pulling together to help. He says he was humbled by the community response.
“That’s why we live in Idaho,” Nielsen says. “We are self-reliant people. We don’t want for somebody else to come and help us, we dig in and we do the best that we can to help our neighbors and it’s really exciting.”
Nielsen says damages are at $12 million and climbing. The police department Monday closed its investigation into what caused the fire, determining the Charlotte Fire was started by someone but was accidental.