Residents in path of rapidly growing Idaho fire urged to ‘go now’

Posted at 2:40 PM, Aug 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-17 20:22:00-04

By CNN Staff

(CNN) — The message Saturday from fire officials to hundreds of people in the path of a wildfire burning in Idaho’s Wood River Valley: Pack up your essential belongings, your pets and go.

Resident Robert Cole didn’t need any further encouraging to get out of the way of the blaze, dubbed the Beaver Creek Fire, that swelled significantly — and dangerously — over the course of the day.

“I’ve seen enough disaster in my life… But never any fire that threatened my home,” Cole said, looking toward a glowing ridge.

Somewhere in that area, he knew firefighters were working to save homes

“I hope like hell they are safe,” Cole said.

The fire grew from 64,000 acres on Friday to nearly 93,000 on Saturday, pushed in large part by strong winds, low humidity and dry brush, according to the U.S. multi-agency fire response website InciWeb.

Firefighters have been unable to corral the blaze that was ignited by a lightning strike on August 7 northwest of the town of Hailey. It was just 6% contained by Saturday afternoon, just as it was in the morning, according to InciWeb.

Mandatory evacuation orders grew from 1,600 homes to more than 2,200 homes by late Saturday afternoon.

Those areas include parts of the towns of Hailey and Ketchum, as well as Greenhorn Gulch, Deer Creek, Golden Eagle and Timber Gulch.

“Out in Deer Creek and Green Horn, we got our butts kicked,” the Blaine County Fire Chief Bart Lassman told 500 residents gathered Saturday afternoon at a community meeting in Hailey, according to CNN affiliate KTVB.

Hot shot teams and fire engine crews were awakened at 2:30 a.m. local time to battle the fire making a run at homes, Tracy Weaver, a fire public information officer, told KTVB.

“Firefighters are making a valiant stand,” she said.

The fire has destroyed at least one home and damaged several others, according to InciWeb. It also destroyed a bridge and burned a number of out buildings, it said.

The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday afternoon there was a “high probability” of even more evacuations to come in West Ketchum. Residents of the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley — home to a well-known ski resort — are under a pre-evacuation notice.

“Begin preparations now so that you can leave immediately should conditions deteriorate,” the sheriff’s office warned.

About 700 personnel are involved in fighting the fire, which was sparked by lightning on August 7. Authorities said Highway 75 was intermittently closed due to fire, smoke and firefighting operations.

The Idaho National Guard also has been called in to help,

Idaho’s governor, Butch Otter, has issued a disaster declaration, and ordered the Idaho National Guard to provide support for firefighting efforts.

The governor warned people to obey the evacuation orders.

“Those folks’ job is to fight fire, not rescue people, and evacuate them after they were told to do it, and refused to do it,” Otter told KTVB. “I understand you want to protect your property. But, I will guarantee you that nobody is going to go out of their way to get you out of your house, if it isn’t necessary.”

CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Greg Botelho, Travis Sattiewhite, John Branch and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

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