HAILEY, Idaho -- A playground for some and home to many, the Wood River Valley is on edge as a massive fire burns dangerously close to homes, stretching fire crews and keeping officials hopping.
The fire has burned 158 square miles, and has forced 2,250 homes into a mandatory evacuation order (full list of areas below). Another 7700 homes are under what is known as pre-evacuation, giving them time to pack up essential belongings and get ready to go at a moment's notice if the fire grows closer. A total of nearly 10,000 homes are impacted by the massive fire that a public information officer termed "a beast."
Throughout Friday and early Saturday, the fire blew up, with very low humidity, winds and hot temperatures making efforts to protect lives and homes difficult. However, Saturday night, cloud cover and an increase in humidity provided a break for firefighters looking to contain the fire along Highway 75 and protect homes on the east flank and north end of the blaze. However, on Sunday, the dry, windy conditions returned, bringing with it more activity to the fire.
The fire started last week -- and so far has destroyed five structures including one home, but none since Friday.
The large, unpredictable fire is burning through both sage and pine trees toward the resort areas of Hailey, Ketchum. The area, known around the world as Sun Valley is anything but sunny -- socked in by a thick layer of soot and ash.
More than 1,100 state and federal firefighters were dispatched to the blaze in the affluent resort region. Crews from around the state and across the nation are working together to battle the nation's number one fire priority.
PROGRESS ON THE FIRE
Fire managers are expressing optimism in their battle against the Beaver Creek Fire.
Officials said Sunday the fire grew only about 12 square miles because of cloud cover the day before and the arrival of additional firefighters.
The fire is now 8 percent contained.
Fire spokeswoman Shawna Hartman says nearly 90 fire engines are in the region, many protecting structures.
The Blaine County Sheriff's Office announced several areas where residents may return to pre-evacuation status on Monday. However, Sheriff's spokeswoman Holly Carter warned that the Beaver Creek Fire still poses a serious threat to Blaine County residents.
Residents will be notified if and when it is safe to return home. The sheriff's office stressed that those areas will remain on pre-evacuation notice and residents should be prepared to leave again should conditions change.
MANDATORY EVACUATION AREAS
- North of Ketchum - Glassford Heights north to SNRA on both sides of Highway 75; including
- Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to Treasure Lane west of Highway 75
- Treasure Lane south to McKercher Blvd., INCLUDING Aspen Lakes, west of Highway 75 (does not include Northridge)
- Croy Creek from Big Wood Bridge West
- Zinc Spur to Treasure Lane, west side of Highway 75
- Baker Creek, west side of Highway 75 south to North Fork INCLUDING Easley
- East Fork
- Timber Gulch south to Treasure Lane, west of Highway 75
- Deer Creek from the Big Wood Bridge west
- North of East Fork to hospital bridge on both sides of Highway 75, INCLUDING Broadway Run and Gimlet
Take your essentials belongings and pets and go now. Residents are encouraged to evacuate south.
- If you are physically unable to evacuate call 911
- All services to these areas will be discontinued
- You will not be allowed to re-enter the area until the danger has passed.
- Ohio Gulch
- Indian Creek
- Lake Creek area north of Ketchum
- Sun Valley
- Warm Springs area
- North of 75 along both sides of Highway 75 to SNRA
- West of River Street, including Queen of the Hills Drive, Sherwood Forest and all Della View subdivision
PRE-EVACUATION ORDERS LIFTED
- Portions of Ketchum and Sun Valley on the east side of bike path from Elkhorn Road and Hwy 75 north to Saddle Road. (Does not include Warm Springs and Lane Ranch)
Residents in Pre-Evacuation areas are strongly encouraged to initiate evacuation procedures at this time to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 75.
Emergency managers are asking the public limit the use of their cell phones so that essential services can continue in the area.
Begin preparations now so that you can leave immediately if conditions deteriorate. If you are in danger, do not wait for a evacuation order.
Residents with no means of transportation or who are physically unable to evacuate on their own, should ask a neighbor or call (208) 578-3831. Residents can also sign up for the Blaine County Emergency Alert system here. Services to your area may be discontinued during this time.
Be aware that officers are unable to go door-to-door for pre-evacuation notifications as their resources are tied up with mandatory evacuations.
The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Community Campus for residents displaced by the fire. For shelter information please call Johnnie Sue at 208-705-3575.
NATIONAL GUARD ARRIVES
About 20 Idaho National Guardsmen arrived in Hailey Sunday to assist sheriff's deputies with road blocks.
Lt. Richard Wilson said the guard also will be helping out by doing a roving patrol that will supplement the sheriff's office.
"We're a force that's always ready," said Wilson. "We're designed to go into austere locations and we're trained to survive. We have all that stuff lined up for us so it makes it easy for us to help out in those situations."
Wilson says this is an opportunity for them to help other Idahoans. "We've got a couple people that currently are stationed up here and live up here, so they're definitely helping out their neighbors."
SATURDAY COMMUNITY MEETING
A 3 p.m. community meeting was held at the Wood River Performing Arts auditorium on Saturday to brief the public on the ever-growing Beaver Creek fire.
It was a packed house at the community meeting. The auditorium’s capacity is 489, and there were people sitting on the floor, standing in the back and standing in aisles.
"Out in Deer Creek and Green Horn, we got our butts kicked," said Blaine County Fire Chief Bart Lassman.
Crews were woken up at 2:30 a.m. to help do structure protection as the fire raged.
All vacations have been canceled and crews are working 12-hour on, 12-hour off shifts to cover everything. The Idaho National Guard has been called up and will arrive within 48 hours to assist with a number of tasks. In addition, 12 hot shot crews are helping work the fire. Firefighters who were previously on the McCan Fire are now in Blaine County.
Incident Commander Beth Lund said there are multiple new fires around the county, but that they are still getting new resources all the time on the Beaver Creek Fire.
Lund said the fire has really been kicking up in the later hours of the night. She said it really starts to get active around 3 p.m., and continues until 10 p.m. or even as late as midnight before it lies down again.
For now, Lund said the Beaver Creek is still holding at the Castle Rock Fire scar left in 2007.
Officials also used the meeting to talk about new evacuation orders that came in on Saturday afternoon.
“Be prepared. Wherever you live in the Wood River Valley, at least between Hailey and Ketchum or Ketchum North, be prepared, because this fire grew 30,000 acres yesterday,” said Traci Weaver, information officer for the fire. ”It's a beast, and so just be prepared. If they tell you to evacuate, go.”
Weaver told the crowd that their homes were not worth their lives, and told them not to try and be heroes.
A huge crew of structure protection engines have been added to Saturday’s firefight. There are 40 engines, each with three to five people. Ten more engines are expected to arrive on Sunday.
Wood River Fire and Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said the structure protection crews are eager to get out there, and that he had to ask them to go get rest.
Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey was also at the meeting. He thanked the public for their cooperation with the evacuations, and said he is doing everything he can not to have to evacuate folks.
FIRE EXPANDED FRIDAY
Fire officials said Friday high, gusty winds, low humidity and tinder-dry vegetation created unstable conditions surrounding the 145-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire. The fire grew over 30,000 acres on Friday. As of Saturday, fire was only 6 percent contained.
On Friday evening, Governor Butch Otter issued a disaster declaration, and has assigned the Idaho National Guard to provide support to the Beaver Creek Fire. The National Guard will assist with road closures in the area.
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.
GAS COMPANY SHUT OFFS
As of 3 p.m. Monday, Intermountain Gas says they are working to get their gas systems back up and running. They say personnel will go door-to-door to each customer, request entry, unlock and open the meter valve, and then relight and test each gas appliance at that customer's premise.
Intermountain Gas crews will leave door-hangers with all pertinent information on any premise they can't gain entry to for relight. Customers who have been allowed to return to homes or businesses can call Intermountain Gas customer service at 1-800-548-3679.
The post office is also taking extra precautions because of the fire. Over 600 addresses in the 83333 zip code will not have mail delievered and is being held at the Hailey post office. You can pick it up with photo id. The post office is also holding some mail for the pre-evacuated areas until the threat is gone.
View 8.17.13 Beaver Creek Fire in a larger map