Thousands flee Sun Valley, Ketchum ahead of massive wildfire

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by Associated Press & KTVB

KREM.com

Posted on August 17, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:04 AM

BOISE, Idaho -- Firefighters in central Idaho braced for a tough day Saturday protecting the mountain resort communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley.  Meanwhile, 12 miles to the south police knocked on doors starting at 3:30 a.m. to evacuate the west side of Hailey.

The 144-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire grew 44 square miles Friday and fire managers predicted similar conditions Saturday as more firefighters poured into the area to bolster 700 already there while residents and vacationers jammed U.S. Highway 75 getting out.

Blaine County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marsha Head says about 1,600 homes on the west side of the highway are under mandatory evacuation orders. Ketchum and Sun Valley residents are under pre-evacuation orders.

Fire spokeswoman Traci Weaver says a fire camp crew member in his 50s suffered a heart attack and remained hospitalized Saturday.

One home was destroyed Thursday night in the fire, said Bronwyn Nickel, a spokeswoman for Blaine County, where the fire is burning.

However, fire managers are reporting no new damage as of Saturday morning. Another positive sign: State Highway 75 is now back open at Ohio Gulch, Elkhorn and East Fork.

Fire officials said Friday high, gusty winds, low humidity and tinder-dry vegetation created unstable conditions surrounding the Beaver Creek Fire.

Hundreds of 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.

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.

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.

Just after noon on Friday 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

Take your essentials belongings and pet and go now:

  • Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to Treasure Lane west of Hwy 75
  • All East Fork, north to Hospital bridge on both east and west sides of Highway 75 including Broadway Run.
  • All Indian Creek, Ohio Gulch, and Heatherlands (invluded Valley Club)
  • Deer Creek from the Big Wood Bridge West
  • Treasure Lane South to McKercher, Aspen Lakes
  • Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood Bridge west
  • Baker Creek on West side of Hwy 75 South to North Fork (SNRA Headquarters) including Easley. (This does not include Galena Lodge at this time.)
  • West of River Street including Queen of the Hills Drive, Sherwood Forest and Della View Subdivision in Hailey.

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

  • West of River Street and north of Cedar Street in Hailey (Does not include Albertson's)
  • Gimlet to North Fork (Below SNRA Headquarters) on both sides of Highway 75. This includes Warm Sperings and the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley

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.

LIVE updates: Idaho FireWatch

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, 350 gas customers in the areas west of Highway 75 from Deer Creek Road, northwest of Hailey, northward to Owl Rock Road, and just south of the St. Luke's Wood River facility 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.

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