Big fire near Hailey, Ketchum worries Idaho officials

BOISE, Idaho — About 600 homes were evacuated on Friday in central Idaho as fire officials took precautions ahead of a large, unpredictable blaze burning east through sage and pine trees toward the resort communities of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Fire officials said high, gusty winds, low humidity and tinder-dry vegetation created unstable conditions surrounding the 85-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire.

One home was destroyed Thursday night, said Bronwyn Nickel, a spokeswoman for Blaine County, where the fire is burning.

More than 600 state and federal firefighters were dispatched to the blaze in the affluent resort region that’s a second home to celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis.

In addition, private insurers have sent in their own crews to provide structural protection for homes with values that can reach tens of millions of dollars, Nickel said. Similar measures were taken during a 2007 blaze near Ketchum.

“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.”

A huge DC-10 tanker, capable of carrying 12,000 gallons of retardant, was among aircraft making drops on the blaze.

Flying in separate aircraft, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell took an aerial tour of the fire.

The towns of Ketchum, with a population of 2,700, and Sun Valley, with 1,400 people, were under pre-evacuation orders, with residents advised to prepare their belongings in case they are required to leave on a moment’s notice.

Fire managers “are just adding an extra layer of caution to the plan that they started last night,” said Rudy Evenson, a spokesman for the federal team overseeing the fire. “We have a forecast for 30 mph winds at the ridge tops. “

Southbound traffic on U.S. Highway 75 was backed up, as many residents and vacationers opted to flee the smoke.

“They just don’t know which way the fire is going to go, so they’ve got to get everybody ready,” Hailey resident Jane McCann said. “The smoke is unbearable. Today in Hailey, you couldn’t see the mountains from Main Street.”

McCann said traffic on US 75 was bumper-to-bumper.

The Beaver Creek Fire was burning into an area torched by the 2007 Castle Rock Fire that burned a portion of the Sun Valley ski area on Bald Mountain. The scarred terrain from that fire remains a significant buffer to this latest blaze, though flames that reach heavily timbered patches on south-facing slopes were expected to burn intensely, Evenson said.

In addition to assessing the Beaver Creek Fire, Otter and Tidwell were expected to survey the Elk Complex and Pony Complex fires to the southwest, where firefighters were getting the upper hand a week after flames torched dozens of cabins and other structures.

The Elmore County Sheriff’s Office was escorting homeowners from Fall Creek, as well as Lester Creek and Ice Springs, back into their neighborhoods. But they were only allowed a limited amount of time to survey damage to their properties, due to safety concerns.

Charred slopes were unstable, and crews have already spent days cutting through downed trees.

Both fires were closer to containment, though the remote mountain hamlets of Pine and Featherville remained under evacuation orders.

Firefighters battling the Elk Complex were conducting burnout operations after the blaze — estimated at 200 square miles along the Pine/Featherville Road — was about 40 percent contained.

The Pony Complex — the largest in Idaho so far this year at 229 square miles —— was 80 percent contained. Crews worked Thursday to extinguish remaining hot spots near Anderson Ranch Dam.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Marilyn Carter (left) is president and Barbara Callaghan is vice president of the AOK Club at Washington Oakes Retirement Community in Everett. Carter personally funds much of the supplies for the club’s annual candy wreath fundraiser so that all sales proceeds can go to local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Daily Herald)
Circles of kindness

Residents of an Everett retirement community create candy wreaths as fundraisers.

County to contribute $1.6M to Everett’s low-barrier housing

The plan appears on track for the council to transfer the land ahead of next month’s groundbreaking.

Most Read