Friday, August 16, 2013

Beaver Creek Wildfire Scorches Idaho

Country well known to the great American author Ernest Hemingway is being threatened by a massive wildfire this weekend.Extreme fire behavior is resulting in explosive growth of the Beaver Creek Fire northwest of Hailey on Sawtooth National Forest,Idaho.It was ignited by lightning about midnight on 7 August,and is mone of 10 uncontained wildfires of more than 100 acres burning in the area.*Firefighters are building containment lines along the perimeter where safety permits;where it does not,air support is being called in.Presently,698 personnel and 14 helicopters are assigned to the 64,236 acre fire,but this number will be swelling over the weekend as more hand crews,engines and support personnel arrive.Beth Lund is incident commander.*The fuels invloved are grass,sagebrush,riparian areas and timber.The fire is characterized by extreme fire behavior with active surface runs and crown fire.Multiple subdivisions have been evacuated on both sides of Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum.The growth potential is extreme in the highly difficult terrain.One home has been lost,along with a bunkhouse and five other structures.There have been a few minor injuries to firefighters.The bridge connecting Ketchum and Fairfield on Forest Service road 227 has been destroyed.*The head of the fire produced a massive pyrocumulous column.Fire whorls,torching trees and crown fire were visible from Hailey and the Highway 75 corridor to Ketchum.Pre-evacuation warnings have been issued for Sun Valley and Ketchum.Spot fires from flaming embers thrown off the main body of the fire are starting up to a mile away.*Sawtooth National Forest is about 2,000,000 acres in size.It contains the Sawtooth Wilderness Area with 50 jagged peaks of more than 10,000 feet in height.They are high granitic peaks with narrow glacial valleys and nearly 400 alpine lakes.Alpine wildflowers bloom in July and August in the high meadows.*An American Red Cross shelter has been set up at the Hailey Community Campus for persons displaced by the fire.Area residents should prepare now to evacuate.If you are in danger,do not wait for an evacuation order.*Update:The Beaver Creek Fire has grown to 92,754 acres and is 9% contained.There has been extreme fire behavior on Saturday with active surface runs and long range crown fire through drought-stressed fuels.The growth potential is extreme with the temperature at 90F at 6pm with 8% humidity,winds at 7-15 mph with SW gusts to 30.Assets deployed include DC10s;single engine air tankers;heavy,medium and light helicopters;bulldozers;Hot Shot crews;20 person hand crews;engine crews;equipment operators;and fire managers.There are extensive mandatory evacuations and pre-evacuation warnings,the latter having been issued from Lake Creek south to hospital bridge,including Warm Springs and the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley,plus Residents of Hailey west of River Street.

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