"The wind is so strong we're literally just watching houses go up in flames," resident Susan Hallamore, 42, told The Associated Press. "Our house went up in flames."
Hallamore said she, her husband and her five children were away from the home when the fire broke out. "First you're happy you're all safe; then you realize you don't have any pictures anymore," she said.
Dozens of homes and residents were evacuated. A nearby church owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was opened to provide shelter for evacuees.
All available Boise firefighters and equipment were called to the smoke-covered scene, fire officials said. The Bureau of Land Management has also sent four engines and about 20 firefighters.
Michael Robinson told KTVB that city firefighters came to the neighborhood last week, urging homeowners to get rid of dry grasses and other fuels and create fire breaks around the houses. Robinson said he and others complied, but it didn't make any difference.
"The fire just jumped across the fire break," he said.
Associated Press Writer Matt Mygatt also contributed to this story.