(Updates with evacuation order)
By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho Aug 17 A fast-moving central
Idaho wildfire forced the evacuation of 2,250 homes near the
tourist towns of Hailey and Ketchum as firefighters lost ground
on Saturday against the blaze that also threatens the Sun Valley
Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey called for occupants on
the outskirts of both towns to leave without delay. He expanded
evacuation zones to include residential developments north of
The fast-moving wildfire has burned more than 92,000 acres
(37,230 hectares) of sagebrush flats, pine forests and granite
canyons in the Sawtooth Range west of a highway that connects
Hailey, a town of about 8,000 people, to Ketchum and Sun Valley
to the north.
More than 1,000 people have fled upscale subdivisions on the
southern outskirts of Ketchum, where some homes are worth tens
of millions of dollars. The area features the vacation getaways
of such celebrities as former California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger and actor Tom Hanks.
The blaze has sent towering columns of smoke over the
tourist towns nestled in a narrow mountain valley known for
premier hiking, biking, fishing and skiing.
An animal shelter on the west side of Hailey, where flames
enveloped a mountain ridge and raced toward a city park below,
was safely emptied of dogs and cats, said Blaine County
Deputy Sheriff Anita Selner.
Hundreds of firefighters were battling to keep flames from
crossing to the east side of the highway that links the three
towns and is the only developed road out of the valley.
The so-called Beaver Creek fire has claimed one primary
residence, one bunkhouse and six other buildings since being
sparked by lightning on Aug. 7, federal fire information officer
Sandy Miller said.
Roughly 30 people stayed overnight at an American Red Cross
shelter in Hailey, where onlookers gathered as air tankers
equipped with fire retardant and helicopters with water buckets
"A lot of people are just watching the fire and our
customers are talking about nothing else," said Alexis Sualez,
barista at Zaney's River Street Coffee House in Hailey. "People
are pretty worried."
The valley is crisscrossed by recreation trails and gated
subdivisions of log mansions and luxury homes that border the
Sawtooth National Forest.
It is one of several high-end enclaves in Western states
that have been menaced in recent days by wildfires fueled by
record heat, drought and fierce winds.
Crews grappling with the Beaver Creek fire were warned that
conditions could rapidly deteriorate amid rising temperatures
and gusting winds.
"There is definitely a sense of anxiety," said Blaine County
spokeswoman Bronwyn Nickel as residents and vacationers fled the
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Sandra Maler)