Friday, March 11, 2005

Warm Springs' risk to wildfire disputed

Express Staff Writer

An attorney representing a group of Warm Springs Ranch neighbors alleged this week that 48 hotel cabins proposed in the plan to redevelop the property would put guests at danger from avalanches and wildfires.

"They are in a high fire zone," said attorney Terry Hogue. "I suggest that one bolt of lightning would cause a catastrophe to those cabins."

Hogue told the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission that developing several groups of cabins where the property approaches the base of Bald Mountain would constitute an inappropriate usage of the land. The cabins, planned to be part of a boutique hotel proposed for Warm Springs Ranch, would be built immediately outside of a designated avalanche zone.

Hogue said the U.S. Forest Service plans to thin the forest next to the cabins because of danger from wildfires. The thinning program might not prevent wildfires and might actually increase the chances for avalanches in the area, Hogue argued.

Commissioner Ron Parsons, a veteran of the Ketchum Fire Department, said he fully subscribes to a consultant's report that indicates a proposed plan to protect Warm Springs Ranch from fire would be effective and could be a "benchmark" for other developments.

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