Fire evacuees return to Pine and Featherville to assess damage

Credit: Adam Worthington / KTVB

Fire evacuees return to Pine and Featherville to assess damage

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by Andrea Lutz

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBandrealutz

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Updated Sunday, Aug 18 at 10:52 PM

ELMORE COUNTY -- The 130-thousand acre Elk Complex Fire is still burning close to the town of Pine.

In fact, it’s roughly 10 mile southwest of it, but progress on the fire is good. As of Sunday, the fire was 55% contained and crews from the fire were being pulled off to go to another major fire burning in the state.

A burnout operation planned for the afternoon was supposed to tie-in the Elk Complex fire with last year’s Trinity Ridge Fire burn, giving firefighters a helping hand on containment.

For days. residents who were evacuated from the Pine and Featherville area, as well as the Anderson Ranch area have been restricted from seeing their properties.

81 structures burned in the fire, including 38 primary residences or cabins. Some people were  unaware what their homes looked like after the fire burned through August 8th.

That is, until now.

“I don’t know I am pretty afraid,” said Alpine Circle resident Rebecca Dodge.

Dodge lined up her car on the Pine-Featherville Road just before 5 p.m. Sunday when Elmore County Sheriff’s deputies started to let residents drive into the restricted area.

They had to first prove they were residents of the area. Then, with an orange sheet of paper that allowed them access, residents like Dodge were given the “go ahead” to proceed in.

“The landscape out there has changed and they just need to be aware of that,” said Lisa Keieler, a fire information officer for the Elk Complex Fire.

Keieler said that, while residents are being allowed to return, they should still use caution because firefighters are still working the fire and the burned area can be dangerous.

“Don’t go wandering through the woods looking at the pretty burn," said Keieler.  "There is still roll-outs can happen from above that they are unaware of.  Snags can fall."

The burn was definitely something Rebecca Dodge noticed when she finally made it to her family’s cabin.

“She is still standing,” said Dodge. “All those trees are dead. I am so devastated.”

They spend the day cleaning the cabin, thawing out the freezer, collecting their personal belongings and turning the power back on. When they were done, they locked it up and left again.

“I was surprised that it was still standing," said Dodge. "The fire is clear right to the road."

The cabin survived another fire season, with a close call.

“We are glad that it never burnt down.”

Mop-up work will continue to ensure the public is not at risk, while some resources are being released for re-assignment to the Beaver Creek Fire, burning near the resort communities of Hailey and Ketchum.

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