Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baldy lift terminal destroyed by fire

Cause of blaze at Flying Squirrel lift still unknown

Express Staff Writer

The Flying Squirrel chairlift on Bald Mountain has been rendered inoperable after a fire early Saturday morning destroyed the lift line’s upper terminal, above. Photo by Willy Cook

No cause has yet been determined for a fire that destroyed the upper terminal of the Flying Squirrel chairlift on Bald Mountain early Saturday morning.
The fixed-grip double chair runs the length of the Picabo’s Street ski run on the Warm Springs side of the mountain to an elevation of 8,200 feet, though it has not been in regular operation for many years.
Sun Valley Co. reported that the fire caused “extensive damage to Lift 9, including separation of the main ski cable.” Company spokesman Jack Sibbach said a snowmaking compressor and a wireless communications facility in an adjacent building were also destroyed. Sibbach said the company does not expect the damage to the snowmaking facility to have a significant impact on the mountain staff’s ability to make snow on most of Bald Mountain.
The Ketchum Fire Department was dispatched to the fire at 12:48 a.m.
“Ketchum Engine 1 was dispatched to a location on Sage Road out Warm Springs where they could observe the fire activity and report any changes to incident command,” a news release from the department stated. “Sun Valley Co. personnel and Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle met at River Run to develop a plan for dealing with the fire.”

We first need to gather all the information, and then assess the damages caused by the fire.”
Jack Sibbach
Sun Valley Co.

However, three firefighters who went to the scene in a snowcat determined that any type of firefighting operation would be too dangerous because of the advanced state of the fire.
The Fire Department reported that no one suffered any injuries and the area was cleared until daylight. The Warm Springs side of Baldy remained closed for the rest of the day, but was reopened Sunday, though Upper Picabo’s Street run has been closed indefinitely.
Elle said the building and surrounding area are extremely hazardous and all access is restricted for public safety.
“I personally ask that everyone stay away from the building and obey the closure area for your own safety,” he said.
The Fire Department stated that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Sibbach said he does not have a financial estimate of the damages and the company has no immediate plans to fix the lift.
“We first need to gather all the information, and then assess the damages caused by the fire,” he said. “We’re waiting for the fire chief’s approval to get inside the building. We’re very anxious to get in there.”
A number of residents who live near the Warm Springs lifts, including Ketchum Councilmen Michael David and Baird Gourlay, have reported a loss of cellphone service as a result of the fire.
Eric Avissar:

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