Friday, July 19, 2013

Lightning starts blaze above Hailey

Deluge aids firemen on Cowcatcher Ridge

Express Staff Writer

Like moths, Bellevue pals Parker Edwards, Malia Foley, Gracie and Devon Peterson, and Grady Edwards (on bike) couldn't resist checking out the Wood River Valley's first major wildfire of the season Tuesday. Photo by Jennifer Liebrum

    The first wildfire of the summer in the Wood River Valley began Tuesday afternoon after lightening struck about 500 feet up Cowcatcher Ridge east of Woodside in Hailey. With the help of heavy rains Tuesday evening, the fire was extinguished by Wednesday morning.
    The fire began about 3 p.m. and raged quickly through grass, sage and bushes until it had consumed several hundred acres, cresting the top of a ridge about 2,000 feet up. The bottom of the blaze was within a few hundred yards of city limits.
    Bellevue firefighter Jamie Hoover was working in the Woodside industrial area when the fire began and called it in. Hoover served as incident commander until turning over command to the Hailey Fire Department.
    “It began in no man’s land on private property,” said Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman “That area goes up every three to five years, but there are no structures or residences between Hailey and Woodside Reservoir, so it is one of the less threatening fire areas.”
    Thirty-five firefighters from Hailey, Bellevue, Ketchum and Wood River Fire & Resuce came together to fight the blaze. Crews from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service also responded, including a Forest Service helicopter stationed at Friedman Memorial Airport.
    An additional single engine air tanker also dropped a load of water or flame retardant on the blaze, but with dry and windy conditions it continued to burn.
    Help from above came in the early evening in the form of a pounding deluge of rain that flooded streets in Hailey and sent people scurrying for cover.
    Firefighters on Cowcatcher Ridge were threatened when winds came up during the storm, at times turning the blaze down upon them.
    “The safest places to be in that case is in the burned-out areas,” Chapman said. “A lot of them went into them and waited for the fire to pass.”
    Despite the heavy rains that left firefighters soaked at the end of the day, Cowcatcher Ridge was still smoldering Wednesday morning.
    “Four firefighters from Hailey and four from Wood River went up the ridge in the morning and found a few hot spots in green areas and in the burn area,” said Chapman. “If we hadn’t gone up there this morning there would have been more fires in the area today.”    
Tony Evans:

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