Letters From the West

Firefighters turn the corner on Beaver Creek Fire

John Kennedy, a Operations Branch Manager for the Beaver Creek Fire looks at late day

John Kennedy, a Operations Branch Manager for the Beaver Creek Fire looks at late day results. (Kyle Green/Idaho Statesman)

KETCHUM – At first look, the gusty winds and hot dry conditions appeared like firefighters’ worst nightmare on the edge of one of the nation’s most exclusive resort communities.

But the combination of a massive aerial assault and several thousand firefighters working in tandem, cooled down what hotspots remained and turned the corner on the Beaver Creek Fire Monday. Fire authorities lifted the pre-evacuation orders for Ketchum and Sun Valley.

“”We made some hay today,” said John Kennedy, a operations branch chief on the fire around Hailey and south Ketchum.

The success today and Sunday gives firefighters confidence that thunderstorms expected Tuesday should help not hinder their efforts. National Interagency Fire Center meteorologists predicted the storms will bring lightning but also moisture Tuesday.

“I think by Wednesday we see some wetter thunderstorms head into central Idaho,” said Ed Delgado, chief of NIFC predictive services.

Charlie Pomeroy, a contractor who lives near the North Fork Store north of Ketchum had a front row seat for retardant and water drops by two of the seven helitanker’s assigned to the fires from the nation’s 22 total.

The fire in the Oregon Gulch area, which had started as a wisp, began burning with thick black smoke in the mid-afternoon, Pomeroy said.

“It looked bad,”

The two helitankers began dropping water after earlier retardant drops. Pomeroy said the smoke turned white as the fire settled down.

“We were in it to win it this morning,” Kennedy said. “Now we’re in it to close it.”

Pomeroy was one of many people who decided not to evacuate. He signed a waiver and they allowed him to come and go as he needed, which allowed him to continue working.

“They were really nice,” he said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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