BOISE, Idaho—A playground for some and home to many, the Wood River Valley is on edge as a massive fire burns dangerously close to homes, stretching fire crews and keeping officials hopping.
Red Flag conditions, including higher temperatures and wind gusts up to 38 miles per hour, increased fire activity on the Beaver Creek Fire Sunday afternoon and evening. And crews expect similar conditions on Monday.
The fire has burned 158 square miles, and has forced 2,250 homes into a mandatory evacuation order.
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.”
Throughout Friday and early Saturday, the fire blew up, with very low humidity, winds and hot temperatures making efforts to protect lives and homes difficult. However, Saturday night, cloud cover and an increase in humidity provided a break for firefighters looking to contain the fire along Highway 75 and protect homes on the east flank and north end of the blaze. However, on Sunday, the dry, windy conditions returned, bringing with it more activity to the fire.
The fire started last week—and so far has destroyed five structures including one home, but none since Friday.
The large, unpredictable fire is burning through both sage and pine trees toward the resort areas of Hailey, Ketchum. The area, known around the world as Sun Valley is anything but sunny—socked in by a thick layer of soot and ash.
More than 1,100 state and federal firefighters were dispatched to the blaze in the affluent resort region. Crews from around the state and across the nation are working together to battle the nation’s number one fire priority.
Fire managers are expressing optimism in their battle against the Beaver Creek Fire.
Officials said Sunday the fire grew only about 12 square miles because of cloud cover the day before and the arrival of additional firefighters. The fire is now 9 percent contained. Fire spokeswoman Shawna Hartman says nearly 90 fire engines are in the region, many protecting structures. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that the Indian Creek area may return to pre-evacuation status on Monday. However, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Holly Carter warned that the Beaver Creek Fire still poses a serious threat to Blaine County residents and said that Indian Creek and the Valley Club remain under mandatory evacuation orders. Residents will be notified if and when it is safe for residents to return to their homes, Carter said. According the sheriff’s office, if all goes as planned, residents will be allowed to return via the north end of Buttercup starting 9 a.m. Monday, August 19. This does not include Ohio Gulch and the Heatherlands. Residents of the Valley Club will be allowed to return via the north end of Buttercup starting at 10 a.m. Monday. Again, residents will be notified if and when it is safe to return home. The sheriff’s office stressed that those areas will remain on pre-evacuation notice and residents should be prepared to leave again should conditions change.