Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chairlift fire deemed an accident

Investigators say blaze started in snowmaking equipment

Express Staff Writer

AT&T technicians, from left to right, Gabe Hoffman, Tom Perkins and Steve Sobien work Saturday to install a temporary cell tower for AT&T in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum. Photo by Roland Lane

    The Ketchum Fire Department has completed its investigation of the fire that destroyed the upper station of the Flying Squirrel chairlift on Bald Mountain, concluding that a malfunction in a snowmaking compressor oil cooler caused the Feb. 1 blaze.
    The fire—which forced the temporary closure of some ski runs on Bald Mountain—burned the lift station, some snowmaking equipment and a small communications facility.
     According to a news release from the Ketchum Fire Department, “The subsequent release of a large quantity of compressor oil intensified the fire, resulting in catastrophic structural failure of the snowmaking portion of the east end of the building. The ensuing wind-driven fire eventually destroyed the top lift terminal of the Flying Squirrel ski lift and communications building at the west end of the structure.”

We have a temporary solution in place and will continue to work with the ski resort on a more permanent solution.”
Meagan Dorsch
Verizon Wireless spokesperson

     The loss of the communications building caused a temporary loss of cell-phone service in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum and areas farther to the north. Two temporary cell towers have been built approximately 100 yards west of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation building across from Warm Springs Creek.
    AT&T technician Gabe Hoffman said that due to snow and location of the cell tower that burned, construction on a permanent fixture cannot begin until this summer. Verizon Public Relations Senior Consultant Meagan Dorsch released this statement on behalf of the company.
    “Verizon is committed to providing service to our customers, including public safety and first responders,” Dorsch said. “We have a temporary solution in place and will continue to work with the ski resort on a more permanent solution.”
    Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle and an independent expert fire investigator completed the investigation on Thursday, Feb. 6.
    “The investigation involved many hours of complicated analysis of damaged equipment and debris at the fire scene,” Elle said.
    The Flying Squirrel fixed-grip double chairlift 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. spokesman Jack 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 fire did not cause any injuries, and there have been no estimates made on the financial damages of the blaze.
    No further investigation of the site is anticipated, as the fire has been officially ruled as accidental.

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 © 2020 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.