U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell just announced at the National Interagency Fire Center that the Beaver Creek fire, which is now threatening Sun Valley and Ketchum, has become the nation’s No. 1 top-priority wildfire. “They’re going to make sure they’re going to use their resources and do everything they can to keep that fire from coming any further north,” Tidwell said somberly. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Asked if the fire could come into Sun Valley and Ketchum, Tidwell said, “At this time, there’s a chance, and that’s why they’ve done the pre-evacuation notices. They’re also making sure that if a spot fire gets across Highway 75 that they have the … helicopters ready to be able to quickly jump on a spot. ... They’ve also pre-positioned crews right there.”
Said Tidwell, “They’re going to probably have a difficult day today with the fire behavior they expect. … They have a plan and they’re implementing that plan. First thing they’re going to do is make sure they get the people out of the way.” He said, “The fire is close so there isn’t really an opportunity to do a lot of a burning operations in there now.” As weather conditions ease into the evening, he said, back-burns might be possible and are part of the strategy.
Gov. Butch Otter said about 3,500 people have received pre-evacuation orders in the Wood River Valley, including Sen. Michelle Stennett, R-Ketchum. In addition, shortly before noon, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Offices ordered those in mandatory evacuation areas to “GO NOW.” UPDATE: Late this afternoon, the number of mandatory evacuations rose to 1,300.
“Please carry the message back,” Otter told reporters at the National Interagency Fire Center. “If you’re asked to leave, it’s not something that the sheriff or the incident commanders do just on a whim. If you’re asked to leave, they know that there is a specific threat. Please leave. Those people’s job is to fight fire, not rescue people and evacuate them after they were told to go and they refused to do it. .. If you’re asked to leave, please get out.”
Added Tidwell, “We’re not going to ask anybody to leave unless there is a real threat.”