Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Indian Creek fire scorches hillsides

Blaze burns 238 acres, skirts rural residences

Express Staff Writer

Express photo by Roland Lane A specialized, water-carrying helicopter passes over a house in the Indian Creek drainage while fighting a quick-moving wildfire on the hillsides above.

A lightning-caused wildfire that started Sunday evening in the Indian Creek drainage was extinguished Monday after burning nearly 300 acres of sagebrush-covered hillsides.

BLM spokeswoman Heather Tiel-Nelson reported that the fire was contained by 2:45 p.m. on Monday and that all personnel were called off the fire at 6 p.m. the same day. Tiel-Nelson reported that fire crews from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service were helped a great deal by a downpour on Monday. She said the total burned area covered 238 acres.

Dramatic smoke was visible mid-valley on Sunday evening after a lightning strike set off the fire about 5 p.m. near the head of the drainage north of Hailey.

On Sunday, aerial crews dropped fire retardant from a heavy tanker and water from specialized helicopters. On Monday morning, there were six engines, two helicopters and one bulldozer on the scene. A 20-person hand crew was also deployed.

Though the wind was blowing away from homes in the area, firefighters and equipment from Wood River Fire & Rescue were deployed to protect structures.

"The nearest the fire came to any structure was a least a half mile," Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said.

But some Indian Creek residents said the fire was still very dramatic.

"We were driving home around the time the fire started and saw a huge plume of smoke," said Deb Santa, a 16-year resident of Indian Creek. "The trucks were already coming in ahead of us and there was a helicopter on the scene. It was a really dramatic evening. We are so fortunate that our local fire people and the BLM get on these fires so fast."

She said she saw flames and a huge cloud of smoke from her house. Helicopters were loading water from a lake nearby, she said.

Neighborhood resident Nick Latham also had a front row seat to the drama.

"I heard a pretty good-size boom just before 5 p.m.," he said. "About 10 or 15 minutes later, the whole hillside was on fire and the wind was blowing pretty good."

Latham said he was also impressed by the response to the fire.

"They were right on it," he said.

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