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Beaver Creek Fire 47% Contained, Feds Feeling Budget Pinch

UPDATED 2:21 PM: As of midnight last night, officials at the Incident Command Center in Hailey announced that the Beaver Creek fire was 47% contained at 108,094 acres. More evacuation and pre-evacuation orders have been lifted, and power has been restored to Idaho Power customers everywhere except north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Headquarters. The forecast for today is calling for slightly lower temps in the low 80's, increased humidity, and scattered showers, however those could be laced with lightning strikes and gusty winds.

2:30 pm update: According to the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, the following neighborhoods are allowed to return to pre-evacuation status as of 11:15 am:
· Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood Bridge west to Red Elephant Gulch Road.
· Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to Greenhorn Bridge.

The following areas are still under mandatory evacuation orders:
· Galena Summit south to Glassford Height on both sides of Hwy 75 including Baker Creek, Easley, SNRA, Fox Creek, Eagle Creek, Chocolate Gulch, and North Fork Trailer Park.
·Residences from Hospital bridge south to Timber Gulch on the WEST side of Hwy 75 excluding the Hospital.

And the following areas remain under pre-evacuation status:
· Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood River Bridge west to Red Elephan Gulch Rd.
· Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to the Greenhorn Bridge.
· Lower Board Ranch west of pavement.
· From Hospital bridge south to East Fork Rd. on the EAST side of Hwy 75 including Cold Springs, Gimlet and the Meadows.
· From Zinc Spur north the the south side of Greenhorn Bridge west of Hwy 75 including Star Weather and Hidden Hollow.
· McKercher Blvd. north up to and including Zinc Spur and all of Deer Creek. Note-Residents only will be allowed west of the Deer Creek bridge.
· East Fork Canyon including Triumph.
· All Ohio Gulch, and the Heatherlands east of Hwy 75.
· Indian Creek and the Valley Club.
· Saddle Road north to below Glassford Heights on both sides of Highway 75 including Huelen Meadows, Lake Creek and Big Wood.
· Residents of Hailey west of River Street including Queen of the Hills Drive, Sherwood Forest and Della View Subdivision (Does not include Albertson's).

7:50 am update:

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NBC Nightly News got to fly around the fire and chase some hot shot crews fighting the fire up close. According to the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, mandatory evacuation orders are still in place for residents of 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 to Timber Gulch on the WEST side of Highway 7,5 excluding the Hospital.
· Greenhorn Gulch, Golden Eagle, and Timber Gulch south down to the Greenhorn Bridge.
· Croy Creek Canyon from Big Wood Bridge west.

As well, pre-evacuation notices are still issued for the following neighborhoods:
· Lower Board Ranch west of pavement
· From Hospital bridge south to East Fork Road on the EAST side of Highway 75 including Cold Springs, Gimlet and the Meadows.
· From Zinc Spur north the the south side of Greenhorn Bridge west of Highway 75, including Star Weather and Hidden Hollow.
· McKercher Blvd. north up to and including Zinc Spur and all of Deer Creek. Note: residents only will be allowed west of the Deer Creek bridge.
· East Fork Canyon including Triumph.
· All Ohio Gulch, and the Heatherlands east of Highway 75.
· Indian Creek and the Valley Club.
· Saddle Road north to below Glassford Heights on both sides of Hwy 75 including Huelen Meadows, Lake Creek and Big Wood
· 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.

As the above map from the Incident Command Center shows, new fire activity remains limited to the southwest and northwest edges of the Castle Rock burn area. New burn areas are in dark red.

Increasingly, crews associated with structure protection are being sent home or to other fires. Others are working on protecting low-level infrastructure like hiking trail bridges by wrapping them in tinfoil, while insurance companies still have crews in the area protecting customers' homes. The tally for the 10 days of intense activity fighting the fire is right around $15 million, and the feds are feeling a serious budget pinch, caught between their firefighting needs and budget cuts. After spending nearly a billion dollars on fighting wildfires this summer, the US Forest Service was down to the last $50 million in its firefighting budget, only enough money for a few days of fighting the nation's 51 large wildfires. It's had to cut from other areas, like timber in recreation, for the 6th time since 2002, while its budget for preventative measures, like thinning national forests to cut down on the available fuel, has been cut steadily. A reserve for such actions has been cut from $413 million in 2010 to $299 million after sequestration.

The above photo is from a gallery from the Georgia Forestry Commission that gives another good glimpse into the reality of the hot shot crews embedded along fire lines - the majority of which are hand-dug - who camp out in the wilderness for a week or two while fighting the fire. Sun Valley residents are no doubt deeply grateful for their extremely hard work.

· Beaver Creek fire archives [Curbed Ski]