10,000 homes in path of 'beast' central Idaho wildfire

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by Jordan Longacre, KREM.com, Ryan Larrondo & KTVB.COM

KREM.com

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 6:38 AM

Updated Monday, Aug 19 at 5:28 AM

LIVE updates: Idaho FireWatch

HAILEY, Idaho -- On Saturday, the Beaver Creek fire brought big wind gusts and new evacuation orders for residents living in North Ketchum. The order was issued at 2:30 p.m. on both sides of Highway 75 in neighborhoods like Fox Creek, Eagle Creek, Chocolate Gulch and the North Fork Trailer Park.

In those areas alone, homes added up to 250. That kicked the total number of evacuated homes from the Beaver Creek fire to 2,250.  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."

Still, firefighters made some progress Saturday as five more hotshot crews arrived to slow the march of flames toward homes in the affluent town and neighboring Hailey.
 
The fire grew to 144 square miles Friday night.  Officials expected to have a better sense of the size after flyovers with infrared cameras Saturday night.
 
The Beaver Creek wildfire began August 7.

One resident on his way out of town told KTVB he had previously lost his home in the Malibu fires, back in 1993.

"I remember how fast those flames can move. I just got out of there," said David Seidler, a Ketchum resident. "This is real serious, I was prepared to leave anyway. And it was only as I was going out, I saw the police there. They said, 'It's mandatory.' I said, 'It's mandatory for me right now anyway.'"

Another said he's trusting that the crews working will keep the flames from their homes. "It's not like there are flames coming up over the hill right now. We've been through this before a few years ago with Castle Rock," said JB Barlow, a Ketchum resident. "We're a little bit nervous and uneasy. I'm confident that the fire professionals are going to take care of us."

KETCHUM COMMUNITY MEETING

A community meeting was held Saturday night, at the Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall opened the meeting and said he can't believe it's the second time he's had to deal with evacuations in six years. Referencing the Castle Rock fire of 2007, Hall told residents they were not close to the trigger point on evacuating West Ketchum, but that residents still needed to be prepared and vigilant to evacuate if things get worse.

Mayor Hall also asked residents to not stop and take pictures of the fire from the side of the road, because he's worried a hot car parked on tall grass could spark a new fire.

Unlike North Ketchum, Sun Valley remains in a pre-evacuation stage. Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe also spoke at the meeting and said he signed a declaration of disaster on Friday.

Fire Incident Commander Beth Lund spoke to the crowds as well. She said it was cloud cover that kept the fire growing on Saturday.

Lund mentioned that there had been tremendous growth from Friday night into Saturday morning. And that she was awoken at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday when the fire made a rapid run. She responded with five hot-shot crews.

A new, DC-10 air tanker arrived in Hailey on Saturday to help fight the fire. It replaced another tanker that blew out an engine earlier in the week.

She told meeting attendants that the fire is hanging up on Fox Peak and has not advanced much into the Castle Rock fire scar. She said she hoped they would keep the flames from jumping across Highway 75 in North Ketchum.

An incident team meteorologist reported that wind gusts are expected to come down from 30 miles-per-hour to 20 or 25, and said that although the weather is not ideal right now, it shouldn't be as extreme in the future.

Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle agreed with the county fire chief when he addressed the audience and said, "Firefighters have been getting their butts kicked," in relation to their hard work trying to contain the large blaze.

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