Friday, February 17, 2012

Sun Valley building goes up in flames

Blaze destroys laundry facility at resort

Express Staff Writer

Fifty responders from four agencies extinguished the blaze in about two and a half hours. Here, Sun Valley and Ketchum crews work to cleanup the scene late Wednesday morning.

The second local structure fire in two days destroyed a 1940s-era Sun Valley Resort building Wednesday, drawing a response from four fire agencies.

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said the fire was discovered at 5:26 a.m. when an employee saw flames coming out of the building. He said the employee called security, and the Sun Valley Fire Department quickly arrived on the scene.

The building was being used as a laundry facility, but was originally constructed as a Quonset hut by the Navy during World War II. The resort was closed to the public during the war and used as a convalescent hospital for military personnel.

Initial reports stated that the fire was in the Sun Valley dorms, a report quickly contradicted by Sun Valley Fire Department Capt. Mal Prior, who arrived on scene to see large flames and smoke coming from the laundry facility.

Sibbach said that though the hut was near several employee dorm buildings, no dorms caught fire and no employees were injured. One Ketchum firefighter was transported to St. Luke's Wood River and was released later that day after being treated for a hip injury.

Sun Valley acting Fire Chief Ray Franco said in a press release that the flames reached 50 feet high at times and could be seen for blocks away.

Though the Fire Department was paged out at 5:28 a.m., Franco said employees had noticed the flames and smoke much earlier.

"People were observing the fire as early as 5 a.m.," he said.

Details were not available as of press time Thursday to explain why those people did not call the Fire Department.

The building was not equipped with smoke or heat detectors, and Franco said the building also did not have an automatic sprinkler system. He said the lack of early detection systems led to the fire's gaining momentum before crews arrived on scene.

Ketchum Fire Department Chief Mike Elle said his department sent three engines, a 'tender' to provide extra water to the engines and two ambulances. Wood River Fire & Rescue sent an engine to the scene as well, as did the Hailey Fire Department. In total, 50 firefighters responded.

Firefighters surrounded the building and were able to contain the fire to one wing of the Quonset by using a "deck gun," a water jet gun mounted on an engine, as well as other equipment.

Franco said firefighters from the four agencies worked for more than two and a half hours before containing the blaze. Elle added that his department had crews, an engine and an ambulance on scene until 12:20 p.m. to assist with extinguishing and cleanup.

An investigation is not yet complete, Franco said, but the Idaho State Fire Marshal has determined that oily rags in the building ignited the blaze spontaneously. He said a complete assessment of the fire and its causes is expected early next week.

Elle said no employees were in the building at the time that crews arrived on scene.

No damage estimates were available as of press time, and Sibbach said he was not sure what would happen to the building or whether it would need to be replaced.

"Is it a total loss? We don't know yet, but it looks like it is," he said.

The Sun Valley fire was the second at a somewhat historic building in two days. Trail Creek Village in Ketchum, a log building constructed in 1927 as a hotel that now houses art galleries and businesses, caught fire Monday night. Ketchum and Sun Valley firefighters—39 total—extinguished the blaze, but not before it caused $25,000 worth of damage to the building.

No residents of that building were harmed, as the only business owner present escaped in time. One Ketchum firefighter was transported to St. Luke's Wood River, but was later released after treatment for an eye injury.

Katherine Wutz:

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2024 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.