HAILEY, Idaho —
Smoke stretching across the tight Big Wood River Valley also grounded the air attack on the blaze, putting more pressure on fire crews building fire lines on the ground. But by midday, the smoke cleared enough to scramble helicopters that targeted fires burning in the mountains and foothills that shoulder Hailey and north to Ketchum.
Fire managers also turned to a huge DC-10 tanker to resume retardant drops all across a fire that is burning hotter and faster than the Castle Rock Fire that threatened these towns in 2007.
“This fire is consuming everything,” fire spokeswoman Madonna Lengerich said. “The fire is so hot, it’s just cremating even the biggest trees.”
Ketchum, with a population of 2,700, and Sun Valley, with 1,400 people, were under “pre-evacuation orders,” with authorities telling residents to be ready to leave if necessary. Many in those towns heeded the advice as the exodus heading south on Highway 75 continued to slow traffic through the valley.
Ketchum’s tony retail and dining districts, normally buzzing this time of year with tourists and summer residents, resembled a ghost town. Dozens of retail shops, bars, outdoor cafes and restaurants on the town’s main street closed their doors Saturday. Even The Casino, the city’s oldest bar, closed its doors to the surprise of residents. The Casino was established in 1936.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Dale Byington, general manager and 23-year veteran of The Sawtooth Club. The business was one of a handful of restaurants open on or near Main Street, but it closed early Saturday because of a lack of business.
“The only reason I opened was to give people here a place to go and get some food and drink, but that’s not going to happen,” Byington said.
Fire officials are hoping the weather cooperates Sunday, when temperatures are expected to cool.