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Chris Davis and Jason Rose, the first police on the scene, helped evacuate people from the inferno.


By Katy Moeller
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho - Boise police Officer Chris Davis was running as fast as he could Aug. 25, pounding on doors and urging Oregon Trail Heights residents to get out of their homes, when he realized the fire ripping through the subdivision had caught him.
He was on fire.
"I could smell it. I could feel the heat from my uniform," said Davis, a 33-year-old father of two young children, who flung himself against a house and ran through a sprinkler to extinguish the flames on his back.
The scene was chaotic, as propane tanks exploded on home decks, vehicle tires melted in the heat, and residents rushed about to gather up family members, pets and other valuables.
The flames, smoke and embers were overwhelming.
"It literally looked like a blow torch blowing across the road," Davis said of the flames fanned by 50 mph wind gusts. "The fire was so loud - it sounded like a freight train."
Davis and fellow Officer Jason Rose, the first two emergency workers at the scene, spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday about their experiences.
Rose was exiting a house when it literally exploded into flames, knocking him to the ground. The fire melted his uniform and singed his hair, said the 36-year-old father of four.
"It was as if a mule kicked me in the back. ... That's how close I got to getting fried," he said.
Rose and Davis began evacuating residents a couple of minutes before the first fire trucks arrived. They were among 13 Boise police officers treated for smoke inhalation.
"I think the worst thing for me were my eyes. They were blood red with a brown center," said Davis, who was grateful to a Sweetwater Drive resident who handed him a respirator amid the mayhem. "My vision was blurry for a couple days."
The fire began shortly before 7 p.m. Aug. 25 on Idaho Power Co. property near Amity Road and Holcomb Drive. It killed a woman, destroyed 10 homes and caused major damage to nine homes.
Rose, who lives on the east side of Columbia Village, was in the area to help his wife secure his family's trampoline, which he feared might blow about in the windstorm that had kicked up that night.
In eight years with the Boise police, Davis, a member of the department's Special Operations Unit, had never seen anything like the "tunnel of fire" on Sweetwater or the "tidal wave of flames" coming over two houses on Immigrant Pass Court.
Rose and Davis knocked on doors along Sweetwater Drive, working their way toward Immigrant Pass Court.
Davis said he met Peter Ryder outside Ryder's Immigrant Pass Court home. Ryder told Davis his wife, Mary Ellen, was inside the house. But it was too late.
"The house literally exploded," Davis said.
Mary Ellen Ryder, a Boise State University professor, perished in the fire.
Davis and Rose said fire and smoke blocked their exit from Immigrant Pass Court. They drove through the concrete barrier of a walking path to escape the blaze.
"It was either drive through that or abandon the car," Davis said.
He and Rose took a couple of days off work and were back on the job Monday. On Wednesday, the two officers downplayed their roles.
"There's nobody in our department who wouldn't do the same exact thing," Rose said.

Wire Service
 
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