Idaho fire grows; more evacuate near Ketchum
The Beaver Creek fire, pushed by gusty winds, grew by 15 square miles Friday night and early Saturday, moving closer to homes near Hailey, Ketchum and the Sun Valley Resort. Fire officials said more hotshot crews had arrived and some progress has been made.
The Associated Press
HAILEY, Idaho — Fire officials say a wildfire pushed by strong wind gusts and fed by dry timber and brush made a push north and forced more evacuations near the Idaho resort town of Ketchum.
Still, firefighters made some progress on the Beaver Creek fire on Saturday as five more hotshot crews arrived to slow the march of flames toward homes in the affluent town and in neighboring Hailey.
The fire grew to 144 square miles Friday night and pushed north of Ketchum near U.S. Highway 75.
So far, 2,300 residences have been evacuated since the lightning-ignited fire began Aug. 7.
Elsewhere, in northern Utah about 10 homes were destroyed when the Patch Springs fire raced through the community of Willow Springs late Friday, jumping a state highway and fire lines, authorities said.
As of early Saturday, officials said that blaze had burned about 33,000 acres, or more than 50 square miles. It was estimated at 20 percent contained.
Idaho’s Beaver Creek fire grew by 15 square miles late Friday and early Saturday, moving closer to homes and subdivisions in the mountains west and north of Hailey, Ketchum and the Sun Valley Resort.
Efforts Saturday were focused on protecting homes and structures in gulches and foothills just west of the two communities. Crews also planned to target erratic, wind-driven fire growth in one area north of Ketchum and two locations west of Hailey.
Fire managers and more than 700 firefighters braced for another dose of hot temperatures and afternoon wind gusts of up to 30 mph that could move flames closer to homes.
“This fire is consuming everything,” fire-management spokeswoman Madonna Lengerich said. “The fire is so hot it’s just cremating even the biggest trees.”
The tight valley that bookends the communities — and serves as a vacation getaway for celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Hanks — is covered in thick smoke.
Downtown retail and dining districts, normally buzzing this time of year with tourists and summer residents, are quiet, and some merchants didn’t bother to open for Saturday breakfast and lunch.
Ketchum, with a population of 2,700, and Sun Valley, with 1,400 people, were under “pre-evacuation orders.” Authorities told residents to be ready to leave if necessary.
On Friday, Sun Valley Ski Resort officials turned on water cannons, used for wintertime snow-making, to protect lodges on the mountain and ski-lift equipment.
In addition to the government firefighters, some private insurers have sent in their own crews to provide structural protection for homes with values that can stretch into the millions of dollars, Blaine County sheriff’s spokeswoman Bronwyn Nickel said.
“There are private engines that insurance companies have sent in,” she said. “They’re on site. They’re working with our local firefighters and law enforcement.”
In Utah, the Patch Springs fire burning in Tooele County jumped Highway 199 as it burned through Willow Springs. That fire was sparked by lightning Aug. 10.
Meanwhile, firefighters reported progress on a fire burning near Park City, Utah.
The Rockport 5 fire broke out Tuesday and has destroyed eight homes. Officials say it has burned about 1,900 acres and was 58 percent contained early Saturday.