Wildfire forces 1,600 homes to evacuate near Sun Valley

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by Associated Press & KTVB

KREM.com

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:04 AM

BOISE -- About 1,600 homes were evacuated 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 Friday 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 800 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.

SHERIFF ISSUES PRE-EVACUATION ORDER

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office says the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley are under pre-evacuation orders due to Beaver Creek Fire. The area of impact stretches from Indian Creek to North Fork on both sides of Highway 75, including Warm Springs, Croy Creek and the two resort towns.

Officials say due to the serious circumstances of the fire and unpredictable nature of wind and fire patterns, they are urging people to avoid non-essential travel on Highway 75, especially if you are heading north. They are urging people to stay away.

Also, if you live in the North Valley and south then you should make preparations to return to your homes and families as soon as possible.
 
Residents and vacationers appear to be heeding the warning.  Just after noon our crews said Highway 75 was one big traffic jam with lots of cars, trucks and SUVs seen leaving Ketchum and Sun Valley. 

Emergency managers are asking the public limit the use of their cell phones so that essential services can continue in the area.

FOR THOSE WHO LIVE IN MANDATORY EVACUATION AREAS

*Should take your essentials belongings and pet and go now
*Baker Creek on West side of Hwy 75 South to North Fork including Easley.
This does not include Galena Lodge at this time.
*All East Fork
*Timber Gulch South to and including Zinc Spur on West side of Highway 75 including all of Golden Eagle
*All Greenhorn Gulch
*Deer Creek from the Big Wood Bridge West

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.
 
PRE-EVACUATION AREAS

*Indian Creek to North Fork on both sides of Highway 75
This includes Warm Springs and the Cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley
*All East Fork
*Below Zinc Spur South to North end of Treasure Lane on the West side of Highway 75
 
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 in Pre-Evacuation areas are strongly encouraged to initiate evacuation procedures at this time to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 75.

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.  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.

GAS COMPANY SHUT OFFS

Intermountain Gas Company has shut down its natural gas system in the Deer Creek Road area northwest of Hailey as a safety precaution due to the wildfires. Crews are standing by and could perform more shutdowns in the area if the fire situation worsens.

Currently, 33 gas customers on Greenhorn Road will remain off until the evacuated residents are allowed to return.  Fire officials say it will probably be late next week before residents are allowed back in their homes.

GOVERNOR, FOREST SERVICE CHIEF TOUR FIRES

As firefighters make progress containing two massive wildfires, they're leery of another blaze burning west of resort communities of Ketchum and Hailey.

Managers on the 85-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire say winds, low humidity and tinder-dry vegetation created unstable fire conditions Friday. Already five structures, including one home, have been lost in the fire.

An enormous DC-10 tanker, capable of carrying 12,000 gallons of retardant, has been making drops on that blaze, which will get attention from Gov. Butch Otter and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell during their aerial tour on Friday.

Our photographer Paul Boehlke is on the Blackhawk helicopter with the governor, and Jamie Grey is in the Wood River Valley at the incident command post. She says the skies are very smoky this morning after significant fire activity overnight.  The Beaver Creek Fire grew by around 11,000 acres.

Otter and Tidwell are also flying the Elk Complex and Pony Complex fires to the southwest, where firefighters are getting the upper hand a week after flames torched dozens of cabins and other structures.  A total of 81 structures have been lost in the Elk Complex, including 38 homes. That fire has burned 125,000 acres and is now 40 percent contained.

Both complexes are closer to being contained, though Pine and Featherville remain under evacuation orders.  Dave Olson with the Boise National Forest said the fire lines near the Pine-Featherville Road appear to be holding.  The fire is burning toward the area where the Trinity Ridge Fire burned last summer and there is reduced fuels.

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