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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 11 - 17, 2003


Crews from Ketchum Fire Department prepare to enter the burning structure at 271 Second Ave. North on Sunday evening to attack the raging fire from the inside of the building. Firefighters first worked to ensure the fire did not spread to adjacent structures. A total of 55 firefighters from four Wood River Valley fire departments reported to the scene.

Express photos by Willy Cook



Blaze consumes Ketchum businesses

Damage to house, equipment 
estimated at $500,000

Express Staff Writer

Fire investigators Tuesday had not yet determined the exact cause of an intense structure fire in central Ketchum Sunday night that destroyed two businesses and three residential units.

"The area of origin seems to be around the electric water heater," Kecthum Fire Chief Greg Schwab said Tuesday afternoon, after investigating the blaze for the better part of two days. Schwab said two investigative specialists from out of state were scheduled to arrive in the Wood River Valley Tuesday to research and determine the cause of the fire.

The fire Sunday night gutted a residential and business structure at 271 Second Ave. North, the site of The Tanning Service tanning salon and The Answering Service message and voice-mail business.

The building and the two businesses are owned by Ketchum resident Lyn Stallard, who resides in one of the three apartments in the building, but was out of town Sunday.

"I’m just in total shock," Stallard said Monday from New York City. "I’ve been told it’s a total loss… My car was even damaged.

"But I want my customers to know that I’m working on this. I’m going to see how I can get the businesses up and running."

Stallard said she was relieved that neither of two people residing in the building at the time, tenant Todd Matney and niece Lesley Fox, was injured by the fire.

"They’re both OK. Thank God for that," she said.

Schwab said the Ketchum Fire Department was notified of the blaze at 7:42 p.m. Sunday via a 911 call. Firefighting teams from Ketchum and Sun Valley were dispatched immediately. They later received support from Wood River Fire & Rescue and the Hailey Fire Department, he said.

The fire chief said because Matney and Fox had delayed calling the fire department while they attempted to extinguish the blaze, the flames by 7;45 p.m. were engulfing much of the 1.5-story structure.

Firefighters within about five minutes had prevented the fire from crossing over into the adjacent Pioneer Montessori School and other nearby buildings, Schwab noted. The fire was "put down" in approximately 30 minutes, but crews stayed on the scene tending to hot spots "well into the evening," he said.

Matney and Fox were "checked out" by paramedics, who determined that they did not need hospital treatment, Schwab said. "They were obviously startled and excited by the fire," he said, noting that three dogs in the building were also rescued safely.

Stallard said the building had recently been renovated, and was being prepared to launch a new art gallery business.

Schwab—who said firefighters made special efforts to salvage computer equipment, tanning equipment and works of art—said the losses were significant. "The preliminary loss figure from the insurance company is $500,000, but that will likely be adjusted later," he said.

Schwab said the fire could not be prevented from destroying the building because it started in the lower level and was allowed an opportunity to escalate before fire crews could be dispatched. "It was a very hot fire and we had a delayed dispatch because the occupants decided to fight the fire themselves," he said.

Witness reports indicated that an explosion occurred after the two occupants had left the building.

Schwab noted that the heat of the blaze broke several windows on the west side of the building and allowed a prevailing wind to fuel the flames.

Several windows in an apartment building on the north side of the structure were also destroyed by the heat, Schwab said.

The Ketchum-Sun Valley Firefighters Association— through its Displaced Persons Fund—has dispensed funds to the two victims for temporary housing and emergency purchases, Schwab said.

The fund is supported by the association’s annual fund-raising ball.

Patricia Frye, local station manager for SkyWest Airlines, Matney’s employer, said the company has embarked on an effort to raise assistance funds for Matney. A special fund for Matney can be donated to at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank, she said.

"He lost everything he owns and he has no insurance," she said.

Stallard, who has owned the building at 271 Second Ave. North for approximately 30 years, said she plans to replace the structure. "I would definitely plan to rebuild," she said.


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