As wildfires scorch Idaho, area near resort becomes front line
As wildfires burn through several pockets of Idaho, the resort area near Sun Valley frequented by celebrities and the ultra-rich has become the latest front line, fire officials said.
On Sunday, officials said more crews were being directed to the Beaver Creek fire in the central part of the state, which has grown to just over 100,000 acres with 9% containment. Authorities issued a red-flag warning of higher temperatures and gusty winds on Sunday, with more than 1,000 firefighters at work on the ground and in the air beating back the blaze.
As more resources moved in, officials said the fast-moving fire had slowed down Sunday. “It’s not nearly racing as fast as it has been,” said Ludie Bond, a fire information officer.
Fire officials said Sun Valley — an affluent mountain retreat for Mark Zuckerberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others — had been put at risk by the fire. Firefighters were in the area Sunday assessing buildings and clearing out possible fuels for the fire to try to mitigate the risk, authorities said.
Elsewhere in the state, conditions improved Sunday, as the massive Pony Complex blaze — which had consumed nearly 150,000 acres — reached 95% containment, and residents evacuated in the Elk Complex fire were allowed to return to their homes, if they still stood, after nearly a week away.
“It’s definitely a busy fire season, and firefighters are out working hard,” said Kathy Arnoldus, a fire information officer. “It’s not over yet. They’ve got a ways to go. It’s going to be a long season.”
At the site of the Elk Complex fire, in the center-west part of the state, residents had been allowed to make brief visits in recent days to check on their property, and will be permitted to return permanently Sunday. Nearly 700 firefighters are still taking on the 130,000-blaze, which is 55% contained, fire officials said.
Those returning to the area for the first time told reporters they saw a smoldering, blackened mess, and a number of homes that were destroyed. One resident, Judy Lighter, told KTVB-TV, a Boise television station, that “my tears, they fell when we drove up through there.”
“It was horrible,” she said.
In the town of Prairie, as other residents were beginning to return, Mike Weil had stayed behind. He and his wife said they fled as the fire roared toward them, but Weil said he returned minutes later to find his shed and a tree — which he described as one of the oldest in Elmore County — had ignited.
“It was just me, the Lord and a garden hose,” Weil told KTVB. The flames spared their house.
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