| SALMON, Idaho
SALMON, Idaho Aug 16 Firefighters battled on
Friday to check a fast-moving wildfire raging near the Sun
Valley ski resort in Idaho, where hundreds of people were
evacuated as flames menaced multimillion-dollar homes in the
area, authorities said.
The so-called Beaver Creek Fire, now the nation's top
firefighting priority, has raced across 64,000 acres of
mountains and canyons intersected by luxury housing developments
since it was sparked by lighting in the Sawtooth National Forest
nine days earlier, on Aug. 7.
Gene Ramsey, sheriff of Blaine County, said deputies have
gone door to door to tell occupants of more than 225 dwellings
to leave without delay. Others are being told to be ready to
evacuate at a moment's notice.
The fire is one of dozens of destructive blazes in Western
states, many of them fed by drought conditions, higher than
usual temperatures and fierce winds.
On Friday near the Idaho ski resort, in the state's Wood
River Valley, plumes of smoke towered over the area, at the
height of a summer recreation season that drives the local
U.S. Forest Service and other fire crews had lost ground
against the blaze by Friday morning, with a containment estimate
of 11 percent on Wednesday dropping to 9 percent.
One flank of a blaze edged closer on Friday to the tourist
town of Ketchum, just minutes from the Sun Valley resort, which
fire officials said faced no immediate threat.
In the town of Hailey foot traffic was light as thick smoke
reduced visibility, hampering driving on the highway that
connects it and Ketchum. The sheriff said the road may face
closure because of the approaching fire.
Air tankers were assigned to drop fire retardant near
clusters of upscale homes nestled in subdivisions between Hailey
and Ketchum, and fire engines were deployed to guard luxury
residential developments whose homes can be worth tens of
millions of dollars.
Carrie Morgridge, owner of Hailey Coffee Company, reported a
slight dip in customers on Thursday evening but said business
owners and residents were taking the situation in stride.
"We live in a place that has a fire season. We deal with
it," she said.
Elsewhere in Idaho, fire crews were gaining ground on a
blaze menacing two mountain resort towns in the Boise National
Forest about 70 miles east of the state capital. The so-called
Elk Complex fire near the south central Idaho communities of
Pine and Featherville has consumed 38 houses and 43 other
buildings outside city limits.
Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and U.S. Forest Service
chief Tom Tidwell were expected to tour the two wildfires by air
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)