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Fire update: Structure protection successful, but growth potential still ‘extreme’

As of last night at 10, no additional structures were known to have burned in the Beaver Creek fire in the Sun Valley/Ketchum area, but more than 2,200 homes were under mandatory evacuation orders and the fire was just 8 percent contained. According to NIFC’s incident information system, “Firefighters have been successful defending structures west of Highway 75 between the towns of Hailey and Ketchum despite dry and windy weather conditions that have generated extreme fire behavior across the fire.” Growth potential for the fire was rated as “extreme,” with 1,150 firefighters battling it. The fire was up to 100,921 acres.

Meanwhile, the Elk Complex fire is 65 percent contained at 130,178 acres, but closures continue in the area; evacuated residents of Pine, Featherville and Prairie were allowed to return to their homes, but the road remained closed to the general public. Returning residents were warned that the area “will not look the same as when you left it,” but that blackened areas “will recover through time,” and residents likely will continue to see and smell smoke for weeks to come. The Pony Complex fire northeast of Mountain Home is 97 percent contained at 149,384 acres and in the mop-up stage. Click below for a full report from the AP; the Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker reports here that this will be a "make or break week" for central Idaho wildfires, with thunderstorms in the forecast.

UPDATE: At 9 this morning, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office lifted the mandatory evacuation order for about 100 homes in the Indian Creek area, allowing those residents to return home, but keeping them on pre-evacuation notice. You can follow the sheriff's office updates here.

Additional crews arrive to help fight Idaho fire
By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Fire managers expressed optimism Sunday in their battle against a wildfire that has scorched nearly 160 square miles and forced the evacuation of 2,300 homes near the central Idaho resort communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Officials said the blaze had grown by only about 12 square miles because of cloud cover the day before and the arrival of additional crews and equipment. Many firefighters worked Sunday to create protective firebreaks, or gaps in vegetation.

"Today they're very optimistic that we will reinforce those lines in case the fire does flare up as we saw on Thursday and Friday," fire spokeswoman Shawna Hartman said.

More than 1,200 people and 19 aircraft were battling the lightning-caused Beaver Creek Fire, which started Aug. 7 and was 9 percent contained. Nearly 90 fire engines also were in the region, many protecting homes in the affluent area where celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis own pricey getaways.

Hartman said Sunday retardant was being dropped on the flank of Bald Mountain — the Sun Valley Resort's primary ski hill — to reinforce a fire line. That meant the famed ski mountain known as "Baldy" and often used in publicity photos would have a red line of retardant visible from Ketchum.

Hartman said the drop was part of a plan by fire managers to bolster protection for the tony resort town, but he noted the fire had not yet spread to the mountain.

Some evacuated residents in the central Idaho resort area of Ketchum and Sun Valley received permission to return home Monday while residents in the tiny town of Atlanta about 50 miles to the west threatened by a different wildfire are being ordered out.

Blaine County spokeswoman Bronwyn Nickel says residents of about 100 homes have been allowed to return but about 2,000 homes remain under mandatory evacuation orders due to the 160-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire. The blaze is 8 percent contained.

Meanwhile, residents of Atlanta have been told to leave by noon Monday because of the 3-square-mile Little Queens Fire burning about 6 miles to the northwest through grass and timber.

Fire managers say a shortage of resources due to other large wildfires in the region is hampering firefighting efforts. An Elmore County dispatcher says the town has about 30 full-time residents plus seasonal residents. She didn't have an estimate on the number of homes involved.

The last evacuation orders near a northern Utah wildfire were being lifted Monday morning after a series of mountain fires burned more than a dozen homes.

More than 100 residents who were forced to leave Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches in Summit County, about 45 miles east of Salt Lake City.

In Oregon, dozens of homeowners near The Dalles remained on alert as crews battle the Government Flat Complex of wildfires.

Fire spokesman David Morman said the fires were 12 percent contained Monday morning, and had scorched 1,500 acres. Crews were working to keep the flames from the local water treatment plant, which supplies water for much of The Dalles.

Residents of about 35 of the 70 homes threatened have been told to prepare for evacuation.

Morman says afternoon winds could be a problem for firefighters.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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