Idaho authorities expanded evacuation orders to 1,600 homes near the Sun Valley Resort within a 100-square-mile Beaver Creek area as wildfires continue in 2013. The wildfires are fueled by high winds and pine trees.
More than 600 state and federal firefighters were working to get the blaze under control and protect homes in the affluent resort region that’s a second home to celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis.
Another 1,000 firefighters were expected to report to the scene later Friday night, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for the Beaver Creek Fire.
Fire managers say the fire grew rapidly Friday thanks to wind gusts topping out at 30 mph, low humidity and tinder-dry ground fuels.
“The fire activity is extreme,” Hartman said. “It’s safe to say we’ve got a lot of structures at risk.”
Managers at the Sun Valley Ski Resort turned on water cannons that are normally used for wintertime snowmaking.
One home in an outlying valley was destroyed Thursday night, said Bronwyn Nickel, a spokeswoman for Blaine County, where the fire is burning.
In addition, some private insurers have sent in their own crews to provide structural protection for homes with values that can stretch into the millions of dollars, Nickel said.
“There are private engines that insurance companies have sent in,” she said. “They’re on site, they’re working with our local firefighters and law enforcement.”
Fire officials said crews spent the day building fire lines and trying to funnel the fire into areas burned during another blaze in 2007. A huge DC-10 tanker, capable of carrying 12,000 gallons of retardant, was among aircraft making drops on the blaze.
Jack Sibbach, a Sun Valley Resort spokesman, had to leave his home south of Ketchum on Friday. He said he watched as airplanes and helicopters made runs in roughly 3-minute intervals, dropping water and red retardant to create a barrier against flames west of U.S. Highway 75.
The resort turned on snow cannons on Bald Mountain, he said, largely to protect lodges atop the mountain, should the fire advance that far.
“The fire’s not that close to Baldy, but with the wind, you’re worrying about things sparking,” Sibbach said. “Things could jump ahead.”