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For the week of January 17 through January 23, 2001

Balmoral Apartments go up in flames

Express Staff Writer

Hailey Fire Department resources were stretched thin by an early Saturday morning fire at the Balmoral Apartments in Hailey.

With 32 firefighters and seven fire trucks from the Hailey department and Wood River Fire and Rescue responding, Ketchum and Bellevue fire departments were put on standby.

Assistant Hailey fire Chief Carl Hjelm said the fire was called in at 5:34 a.m. Saturday.

He said the cause of the fire is not yet known, but may be related to a propane heater having been left on in one of the unfinished apartments. Witnesses reported hearing a "whomp" and then seeing a sudden effusion of flames, so he suspects a propane tank explosion.

When firefighters got to the scene, their efforts were delayed about 10 minutes because some of the nearby fire hydrants were not working.

Hjelm said one firefighter was slightly injured by minor burns and smoke inhalation, but he would not release the firefighter’s name. The Hailey department is a volunteer organization except for its full-time chief, Mike Chapman, and Hjelm.

At press time, the fire and the failure of the fire hydrants were still under investigation.

Hjelm guessed damages would be in the six-figure range, but an exact figure still had not been assessed. The damaged units were still under construction but basic wiring and sheetrock had been installed.

The fire was under control within two hours, but firefighters remained on the scene for 11 hours.

Construction began on the Balmoral Apartments last spring. Advertised as affordable housing, the project will have 192 units.




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