Wildfire spells disaster for 'mom and pop' businesses

Credit: Ryan Hilliard / KTVB

The Pine Motel is less affected by smoke, but is still suffering due to lost business.

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 26, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 6:03 PM

PINE, Idaho -- The 119,000 acre Trinity Ridge Fire is still just 5 percent contained after torching a huge swath of national forest after it sparked in mid-July.

Nearly a week ago, fire managers began conducting a burnout operation to help save the small communities of Featherville and Pine. Both small towns are directly in the fire's path.

As of Sunday, that effort appeared to be working.

However, the smoke and flames from the Trinity Ridge Fire are also making a big impact on the many small businesses built to serve the area's seasonal economy.

BUSINESS IMPACTS IN PINE

Melanie Schell is the Manager at the Pine Motel. In a unique turn of events, all of Schell's rooms are filled. Here, security personnel, pilots, medical volunteers, and communication officers are taking shelter while helping coordinate firefighting efforts just a few miles away.

"For the actual motel, it's been pretty good," said Schell.

But there's a catch.

What's not pretty good is business in the other parts of Schell's resort. She says her cafe, bar, and campground are suffering. "Our campground was scheduled to have four or five more large events," said Schell. "They all had to cancel, and of course, our Labor Day is canceled at this point."

Other businesses like Schell's that depend on tourism are experiencing similar problems. With heavy smoke, the constant threat of fire, and roads closed to tourists, most are struggling  to make money.

"There's really no access down here," said Schell. "So basically any business we have is whoever is already here."

EVEN WORSE IN FEATHERVILLE

Ten miles north of Pine sits the tiny town of Featherville, which was evacuated more than a week ago.

Here, the situation is even worse for Cyndie and Pat Christensen who run Cyndie's Featherville Cafe. They say firefighters have helped financially support their business, but add that most are on the fire lines all day, and can't make up for the steady stream of tourists and locals the cafe would otherwise serve.

"We had a few locals before the evacuation," Christensen said. "Then we had a few until they did the burnout, and then, they wouldn't let them back in."

Christensen laments that if the severity of the fire wasn't bad enough, the timing of it is.

"August is usually our savings month to get us through the winter, and it's not happening this year," said Christensen. "So we're praying for a lot of snow to get the snowmobilers up here."

Schell is hoping for a busy winter too.

"That's what we're all doing -- we're crossing our fingers," said Schell. "Actually, we're doing the snow dance right now, because we don't care if it comes down as frozen snow, or melted snow -- we would like to have it any way we could get it."

 

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