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Man apologizes for destroying neighbor's home in fire caused by illegal fireworks

"I burnt people's houses down, and I don't know what else to say except I'm sorry," John Woods said


Associated Press

POCATELLO, Idaho — An eastern Idaho man is apologizing for setting off illegal aerial fireworks that caused a brush fire that burned down a neighbor's home and damaged another.

John Woods of Pocatello told the Idaho State Journal (http://bit.ly/2t246uZ) in a story on Saturday that he caused the Thursday fire.

"I lit off five fireworks and I think the fourth one was a bad deal," he said. "I burnt people's houses down, and I don't know what else to say except I'm sorry."

Pocatello Fire Department Capt. Nick Christensen said firefighters responded to the blaze at about 10 p.m. Thursday and had it extinguished at about 1:30 a.m. Friday.

About 15 homes were evacuated, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

Woods said he bought the aerial fireworks at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Aerial fireworks are illegal to use in Idaho without a special use permit. But it's a common practice to sell aerial fireworks in Idaho to buyers who promise not so use them in the state.

"I didn't light them off for the Fourth of July, and I was going to save them for New Year's when nothing could burn, but I decided I would light a few of them off last night," Woods said. "It didn't turn out very good, and now I see why they're illegal."

A neighbor, Kandi Brown, said one of the fireworks blew up on the hillside, immediately starting a fire.

"I have no idea why he would even think of setting off illegal, totally professional fireworks on this hill," she said. "He lives right by the hill, he knows how dry it is."

Woods said he ran to fill up a bucket with water, but by the time he'd finished, the flames were 20 feet (6 meters) high and shooting up the hillside.

Damage estimates were unavailable, but Brown said homes in the area run from $200,000 to $280,000.

Pocatello Police Lt. Bill Collins said the fire is under investigation, and no charges have been filed.

But Woods said he expects legal problems eventually.

"I don't think I'm a criminal, but I did something really bad," he said. "I mean, this is something that little kids do and I'm an adult, so I don't know what I deserve."

In an unrelated incident in southwest Idaho, a judge in May ruled that a 19-year-old man must pay more than $391,000 in damages after pleading guilty to lighting an illegal firework that sparked a 2016 wildfire that burned about 4 square miles (10 sq. kilometers) and destroyed a home.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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