August 26, 2007 / 8:10 PM / 11 years ago

Fire threatens wealthy resort town in Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (Reuters) - An advance of the 35,386-acre Castle Rock Fire forced about 1,000 people from their homes in the resort town of Ketchum, Idaho, said officials with the forest service on Sunday.

The mandatory evacuation of homes, some worth millions of dollars, was a precaution taken by fire managers, who expect more high winds and hot, dry weather, said Jay Nichols, a spokesman for the California Interagency Command Team in charge of fire operations.

The Sun Valley Ski Resort, a popular vacation destination in Ketchum, is also under evacuation orders and residents and visitors were advised against outdoor recreation.

Winds on Saturday drove flames into new territory, and started several spot fires ahead of the main wildfire. Fire crews spent the evening patrolling neighborhoods. No structures had been lost yet, and no fatalities had been reported.

The lightning-sparked fire began 10 days ago. More than 1,400 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, which is burning in heavy forest and open sagebrush hillsides.

By Saturday night, the fire was approaching Bald Mountain, home of the Sun Valley resort.

“I live at the base of Bald Mountain, and I can’t see it,” said State Sen. Clint Stennett, from Ketchum, about the mountain. “It’s just a bit of a tense situation, but we’re trying to remain calm.”

Winds were expected to reach 45 miles per hour on ridge tops on Saturday, officials said.

“That can really raise hell with things,” said Tom Heinrich, a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service.

The Castle Rock Fire is one of nine now burning in Idaho. In neighboring Montana, 16 fires have burned more than 500,000 acres. Nevada and Wyoming are also experiencing extensive fires.

Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center said they expect the hot, dry and windy weather to continue across the Rocky Mountain West through Monday.

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