When the Boise Fire Department needed help raising money for a new “Fire Safe House” nearly 30 years ago, Bob Ricketts and the Boise Association of Independent Insurance Agents (BAIIA) jumped in to help.
The BAIIA’s involvement ended after a few years of successful fundraising, but Ricketts kept going—he and his wife, Judy, launched their own organization dedicated to supporting both fire education and fire victims in the communities of Boise and Meridian, Idaho.
That organization, Light My Fire, is still going strong today. It’s now managed by others in the community after 23 years of leadership from Ricketts and his wife, but unsurprisingly, he is still heavily involved as a board member.
“I’ve been an independent insurance agent for 47 years, and I know that fire-prevention education saves lives and reduces the loss of property.”
—Bob Ricketts, owner, Ricketts and Associates
Making communities safer
“I’ve been an independent insurance agent for 47 years, and I know that fire-prevention education saves lives and reduces the loss of property,” said Ricketts, the owner of Ricketts and Associates in Boise. “Judy and I have tremendous respect for the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect and serve. I’m proud of the work we do to help them and make Boise and Meridian safer places to live.”
Light My Fire supports Fire Safe House facilities and education programs in both cities, serving thousands of elementary-age children. In Boise, the Fire Safe House is mobile, visiting schools and teaching kids about general fire safety, including how to escape from a burning home and prevent wildfires.
In Meridian, program participants visit a stationary facility with a variety of unique features, such as a “burn cell” that shows students what happens to the interior of a home when it burns, a functional kitchen to teach cooking safety, and even a fog machine that allows children to learn how to crawl beneath smoke.
Supporting fire victims
The community benefits in a big way, too. Light My Fire funding makes it possible for fire departments to provide free smoke detectors and battery replacements, and the organization also heavily supports the “Burn-Out Fund”—money to help fire victims with temporary housing and other costs.
“We knew we needed to add support for fire victims when we learned that firefighters were taking money out of their own pockets to help,” Ricketts said.
To date, Light My Fire has brought in over $500,000 for fire-prevention education and victim assistance—and a 2020 Make More Happen Award will help that figure continue to grow. The honor comes with a donation of up to $10,000 from Liberty Mutual and Safeco to Light My Fire on behalf of Ricketts and Associates.
That will enable more success stories like that of the family in Boise whose home was saved when their daughter extinguished a kitchen fire. As the father wrote in a letter to the fire department, he asked his daughter how she knew what to do—and she told him she learned when the Fire Safe House came to her school.
Education around fire safety takes place in a controlled setting. But thanks to Light My Fire, local firefighters, and the efforts of Bob and Judy Ricketts, the impact in the real world is undeniable.