Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Avalanche class aimed at educating valley residents

Express Staff Writer

How to participate

The city of Ketchum, Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center are teaming up to present a special avalanche class Jan. 10 at the Ketchum Fire Station.

The first presentation, which will begin at 3:30 p.m., will be translated in Spanish and will conclude before peak commuter hours.

A second class in English will begin at 5:30 p.m. Both classes should last about an hour.

For the first time in the Wood River Valley, avalanche and emergency services workers are teaming up to spread awareness to local workers who frequent avalanche-prone terrain, as well as the local residents who live in those areas.

The class is intended for public transportation employees, snowplow drivers and anyone else who enters avalanche terrain as an occupational hazard or matter of daily life. And the Wood River Valley has no shortage of dangerous avalanche run-out zones on its valley floors.

During a large storm last New Year's Day, avalanches poured off the south facing slopes in Warm Springs canyon and covered parts of Sage Road. In 1999, several homes in East Fork were struck by slides that poured off a north-facing ridge.

"There have been accidents and close calls," said Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Janet Kellam. "It's not that the avalanche paths near our towns are prone to avalanching every year or multiple times every year, but because they are steeper slopes that do avalanche periodically, this will be some information to help people recognize dangerous situations.

"The course is called 'Living and Working in Avalanche Country.' It's for anyone with a general interest."

Bea Espinoza, owner of Espinoza Flooring in Ketchum, is requiring all of her field employees to attend the class.

"I think it's very important. Our employees travel all over the county, including into some avalanche prone areas," Espinoza said. "They need to know how to take care of themselves and how to help anybody else on the job or anyone they see in a situation that requires assistance."

If you are interested in attending, contact Kim Rogers at the Ketchum Police Department at 726-7819.

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