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LIVE BLOG: Beaver Creek Fire Threatens Sun Valley

UPDATED TUESDAY 4:15 PM: Officials called the Beaver Creek fire a "beast" as red flag conditions over most of the weekend saw the fire grow by an additional 30,000 acres to over 100,000 acres or 145 square miles, with low humidity, high temps, and high winds pushing the fire ever closer to Sun Valley, where 1,750 firefighters from across the country, along with the National Guard, over one hundred fire engines, bulldozers, helicopters, and firefighting planes work tirelessly to contain it. The dramatic video above came from videographer Spencer Cordovano, who stayed around with his camera after he was forced to evacuate his home along with 2,250 other homes and the 7,700 additional that at the time had been given pre-evacuation notices (some of these pre-evacuation statuses have been lifted as of Monday the 19th). The video shows the fire burning over the crest from Ketchum, along with dramatic scenes of fire tornados and helicopters filling their tanks with water from the pond of a Sun Valley golf course.

As the above map shows, the city of Hailey is most under threat, with the fire having burnt nearly all the way down to Highway 75, where fire crews have been working since Saturday morning to keep it from skipping over the road. Thankfully, in Ketchum the scar from the 2007 Castle Rock fire, which itself burned 48,500 acres, has kept the northern end of the fire from getting closer to town, although parts of North Ketchum were included in the last batch of mandatory evacuations. Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall even requested that residents not stop to take pictures of the fire, for fear of a hot car starting a new fire in the dry tall grass.

Wild "fire tornados" could be seen spinning out of the Beaver Creek fire over the weekend, and although firefighters have been able to hold a line along Highway 75 from Hailey to Ketchum, one Hailey resident decided not to take his chances, and rigged up his sprinkler system across his roof in an effort to keep it damp enough to prevent a random hot ember from igniting it.

But while the Beaver Creek fire threatens a populated area, three other fires are burning nearby in more remote sections of the Sawtooth Mountains. The Pony Complex fire has charred a much more massive area, now totaling 150,000 acres, but is now 97% contained and far from population centers. On the other hand, the next door Elk Complex fire has burned 130,000 acres, destroyed 81 structures, and is 55% contained. As of midnight last night, the much smaller McCan fire was 100% contained, having burnt 23,389 acres.

As this fast-moving story develops today, we'll be live-blogging it all from this post, so keep checking back for the most up-to-date information about the fires affecting the Sun Valley area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected, and many thanks to the firefighters working hard to keep these fires under control. And a big thanks to the sources on the ground keeping us updated.


Tuesday 4:15 pm update: The Idaho Mountain Express reported at lunchtime that the Beaver Creek fire stands at 106,000 acres - not having grown much in the past 24 hours - and that $11 million has been spent so far fighting it. Firefighters believe they may be able to increase their containment of the fire from 9% to possibly 20% in the next 48 hours. The fire on Dollarhide Mountain's summit is expected to be under control within 72 hours, and rocky terrain near Baker Lake on the fire's northern end seems to have slowed the fire's progress there.

As it stands, 1,125 homes are still on mandatory evacuation status, with another 6,225 on pre-evacuation status.

According the Blaine County Sherrif's Office website, over the course of the day, mandatory evacuation status has been lifted for the following areas, which are now on pre-evacuation status:
· Zinc Spur north to south side of Greenhorn Bridge west of Highway 75.
· West side of Highway 75 from McKercher Boulevard north up to and including Zinc Spur and Deer Creek. Only Deer Creek residents will be allowed west of the Deer Creek bridge.
· East Fork Canyon, including Triumph.

They join the following neighborhoods in pre-evac status:
· From Zinc Spur north the the south side of Greenhorn Bridge west of Highway 75.
· McKercher Boulevard north, up to and including Zinc Spur and Deer Creek.
· East Fork Canyon.
· All Ohio Gulch, and Heatherlands.
· Indian Creek and Valley Club
· The west side of the bike path in Ketchum from Elkhorn Road and Highway 75 north to Saddle Road.
· Residents of Hailey west of River Street including Queen of the Hills Drive, Sherwood Forest and Della View Subdivision. This does not include Albertson's.

Mandatory evacuation status still holds for the following areas:
· Galena Summit south to Glassford Height on both sides of Highway 75, including Baker Creek, Easley, SNRA, Fox Creek, Eagle Creek, Chocolate Gulch, and North Fork Trailer Park.
· Hospital bridge south down to the north side of East Fork on both sides of Highway including Broadway Run and the Meadows.
· Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to the Greenhorn Bridge.
· Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood Bridge west.

It appears slightly more favorable weather did arrive today:

Tonight's community meeting, taking place at the Sun Valley Lodge at 7 pm, will also be streamed live for those who can't make it. Link is here.

The Hunger Coalition in Bellevue has put out the call for a van to help it make deliveries, as its van is in for emergency repairs and there are no rentals available. Call (208) 788-0121 if you're able to help.

Steve Dondero took the above amazing photo of one of the firefighters' DC 10 aircraft, recently back in action after repairs, dropping fire retardant to try and keep the fire from climbing the northern wall of Greenhorn Gulch.

Attack helicopters in action! That is some serious precision piloting; it doesn't even look like the thing is moving for an entire minute.

And of course, it didn't take the Sun Valley marketing team very long to come back swinging with the "open for business and the ski area didn't burn down!" flashers on. Hell, the flowers even look great!

Tuesday 9:00 am update: We're still waiting for the first of the morning reports, but from information gathered over the night, we've discerned that firefighters, whose numbers have grown from 1,100 to 1,750 this morning, have begun to "turn the corner" on the Beaver Creek fire, and have largely been successful in their efforts to hold the line along Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum and have begun lifting some pre-evacuation statuses. As of 5:30 pm last night, pre-evacuation status was lifted for Ketchum and Sun Valley residents on the east side of the bike path from Elkhorn Road & Highway 75 to Saddle Road. According to the Blaine County Sherriff's office, 2,000 homes are still under mandatory evacuation orders in the following areas:

· Galena Summit south to North Fork (SNRA Headquarters) on both sides of Hwy 75 including Easley.
· Glassford Heights North to SNRA on both sides of Hwy 75 including Fox Creek, Eagle Creek, Chocolate Gulch and North Fork Trailer Park.
· Hospital bridge south up to and including all East Fork on both sides of Highway including Broadway Run and the Meadows.
· Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to Treasure Lane west of Hwy 75.
· All Deer Creek from the Hwy 75 west.
· Treasure Lane south to including Aspen Lakes west of Hwy 75 (does not include Northridge).
· Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood Bridge west

Firefighters fought under difficult conditions around the summit of Dollarhide Mountain as well as at the head of Deer Creek, and officials moved their closure area at the northern end of the fire across Highway 75, as you can see circled in orange in the map above, compiled from two Incident Information System maps put out yesterday. That would suggest that officials are worried the fire could burn across the highway and head north, although this would still be away from populated areas. Ground crews of firefighters, many of whom have come directly from other fires, have been dropped into remote areas to find especially intense areas, although some of that effort has been hindered by mechanical issues with the helicopters.

Officials are looking forward to some cooler weather this afternoon with higher humidity, but are also facing the increasing possibility of thunderstorms through Wednesday, which can produce erratic and gusty winds. Tonight's community meeting is scheduled for 7 pm at the Sun Valley Lodge. Roughly 300 attended last night's meeting.

CNN filed a brief report from Sun Valley covering the efforts there.

As well, Idaho photographer Ashley Smith put together a pretty incredible slideshow of her photos from the firefighting effort for Idaho, KBOI. The above image is taken from that slideshow.

According to the Blaine County Sheriff's office, the fire stood at 105,000 acres and was 9% contained as of late last night, and a call's been put out for bandanas, which fire crews need to protect their lungs from smoke.

Meanwhile, in the tiny town of Atlanta, Idaho, with a year-round population 30-40, the fire chief called on as many of the able-bodied residents of the town to help run fire hoses to prevent the Little Queens fire, which has grown to 7,000 acres, from reaching the town's main thoroughfare, Pine Street. Firefighters are focusing most intensely on the southern end of that fire.

Monday 3:15 pm update: Firefighters this morning reported that the northern edge of the fire along Croy Creek canyon has hampered their efforts to complete a six-mile fire line that would protect Hailey in case the fire came hooking around and down the canyon. The fire is still burning unchecked on its northern end between Oregon Gulch and Fox Creek, and firefighters are considering an intentional burn from Chocolate Gulch to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters. Helicopters have also been busy putting out tiny fires that have started on east face of Carbonate Mountain near Hailey. The Beaver Creek fire remains the #1 priority for national firefighters, although fresh resources are starting to be diverted elsewhere to new fires like the Little Queen fire, which has now burnt 2,000 acres. Thanks to the Idaho Mountain Express for reporting all that.

A pretty insane view of how close the fire has gotten to some homes:

Gotta love a sense of humor with these fire crews:

2:23 pm update:

And a wild photo from a few days ago by Sun Valley local PowSlayer88:

12:00 pm: According to Blaine County, Ohio Gulch and Heatherland residents are allowed to return home under pre-evacuation conditions similar to those in Valley Club.

The Weekly Sun has a full report on the outlook for the day in Sun Valley with regards to the Beaver Creek fire, and reports that there will be a community meeting at Community Campus, 1050 Fox Acres Road in Hailey at 7:00 pm tonight.

11:17 am: According to the Blaine County Sheriff's office, the evacuation order for residents of The Valley Club has been lifted; residents can return via Ohio Gulch and will remain on pre-evacuation status.

The fire is now 8% contained, with weather today expected to include slightly cooler temps, but still strong ridgetop winds. The total heat release from Beaver Creek is setting "near historical records" today, although smoke from the small but quickly expanding Little Queens fire may put a damper on Beaver Creek's activity today.

· Beaver Creek fire archives [Curbed Ski]