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.
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