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Brilliant Traces Begins Today at the nexStage Page 3
Wagon Days Brings Good Size Crowd to Town
Caritas Chorale’s Annual Benefit Dinner, Sunday Page 10
Rebecca Rusch: Out of the Fire, Into the Race Page 16
S e p t e m b e r 4 , 2 0 1 3 • Vo l . 6 • N o . 3 6 • w w w.T h e W e e k l y S u n . c o m
read about it on PaGe 7
Greenhorn Inferno BEAVER CREEK FIRE
Osage Indian firefighter Bobby Robideaux checks out a bandana at Zions Bank.
Bandanas Pile Up STORY & PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK
ome donated bananas, apparently misunderstanding the directive. But those who got it right donated more than 7,000 bandanas for firefighters working the Beaver Creek Fire that terrorized much of the Wood River Valley for nearly two weeks. They donated enough for the 1,800plus firefighters who initially worked the fire, as well as those who came in to relieve them. “I don’t recall a community ever donating a bunch of bandanas like this for the firefighters,” said Fire Information Officer Bonnie Strawser, as she and others combed through a bag full of pink bandanas, orange bandanas, blue bandanas and even bandanas with deer embroidered on them. “It’s cool the way the community grabbed onto this effort. Everyone’s wanting to help.” The idea was broached by Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey, who knew that valley residents wanted to do something to show their appreciation but also knew that firefighters already being fed 6,000 calories a day did not need more brownies and chocolate chip cookies, even if they were of the yummy, homemade variety. When a firefighter asked him where he could find a bandana, Ramsey knew he was on to something. Bandanas are valued pieces of equipment by firefighters who use them as sweat bands and to cover their faces while working in the smoke, said the Beaver Creek Fire’s Incident Commander Beth Lund. “We’ve had fun with it,” said Ramsey. “I told officials at one of the morning briefings that I’m strong enough to wear pink. Then I gave pink bandanas to Disaster Services Coordinator Chuck Turner, Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson and Incident Commander Beth Lund. They have to wear them all day—any time they’re caught without them they have to give money to local charities.” KECH Radio News Director Dayle Ohlau said the radio station has even fielded requests from people across the country who wanted to donate bandanas. Firefighter James Black, engine boss with the Osage National Wildland Fire Management Team from Pawhuska, Okla., was among several Osage and Comanche firefighters who stopped by Zions Bank Friday afternoon and accepted blue bandanas with notes of appreciation attached to them by the bank’s patrons. “It was difficult fighting fire here, coming from flat land. The terrain is bad here—no wonder everyone here is so fit. But it’s beautiful country and we like the bandanas,” said Bobby Robideaux. tws
Harry Huffaker and Barbara Kline, sitting on a bench that has half the retardant cleaned off it, could watch the fire glowing in the distance every night from the Moonstone Ranch where they evacuated. PHOTO: KAREN BOSSICK/SUN Editor’s Note: This story inadvertently got left out of the Aug. 28 issue of The Weekly Sun.
BY KAREN BOSSICK
arry Huffaker grimaced as he drove to his two-log home in Greenhorn from Ketchum the morning of Thursday, Aug. 15. The smoke from the Beaver Creek Fire, which had started a week earlier on BLM land between Fairfield and Hailey, was so thick he couldn’t see even the outline of Baldy from Main Street. As he neared his home on Greenhorn Loop, he noted Mahoney Butte, which sits amidst some of the valley’s most popular hiking and mountain biking trails, was also shrouded in smoke. Firefighters were digging a fire line down to the mineral ground that doesn’t burn behind his house. “It was an eerie feeling, but everybody was calm,” he recalled. A few minutes later—around noon--a sheriff’s deputy knocked on the door. “Mandatory evacuation,” he told Huffaker, indicating there wasn’t much time to gather belongings. Huffaker grabbed his laptop and a desk drawer containing passports and birth certificates. Barbara Kline grabbed the dog and dog food. “We didn’t like the prospects of everything else burning up. But, if it had, there was nothing we couldn’t live without,”
Harry Huffaker’s dog, Chester, greeted firefighters as they dug fire lines the morning before the inferno that blackened much of Greenhorn. COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KLINE
Huffaker said. Three hours later, a helpless Huffaker and Kline stood at the corner of East Fork Road and Highway 75 watching angry-looking red and yellow flames darting 100 feet in the air march across the heavily timbered ridgeline overlooking Greenhorn. Columns of white, black and red smoke rising hundreds of feet in the sky roiled toward Ketchum. The air reverberated with the thwop of Sikorsky heli-tankers and other helicopters making continuous circles from Golden Eagle lakes where they gathered water, flew up the gulch and dumped water on flames. A Very Large Air Tanker, or DC 10, followed a smaller pilot aircraft into the smoke dropping retardant across the inferno. Spot fires that looked like big Panda bear eyes burnt rings in the sagebrush-covered hillside across from the homes. Firefighters worked amidst dust that had been colored red by retardant, all the while cognizant of a wall of fire a quarter-mile wide looming at the end of the road. When they could, they raced in to hose down roofs and siding that had been set on fire by what one firefighter called “The Beast.” They backed off when fire blew through like a blowtorch. Then they reattacked. “I could not imagine how anything could survive,” Huffaker said. “A long lost friend located my home using Google
Earth and sent me a message: ‘If Greenhorn Loop is what they used to call Bench Loop, you are f*****!!” Here we go again Huffaker evacuated to Kline’s house in the Heatherlands. But the next day—just as Huffaker started to set out to see what he could find out about his house—he was told to evacuate again. The Beaver Creek fire was marching relentlessly down the mountainsides lining the highway from Greenhorn five miles south to Hailey. Kline grabbed a box of negatives of her artwork and a box of paints and the two moved again—this time to Rex and Sheila Garner’s Moonstone Ranch 20 miles to the south. “The fire looked like it was coming right down to the highway—I was afraid for the homes in Starweather and on Alturas Drive. It looked like the fire could jump the highway and charge right through the homes on the east side,” said Kline. When the smoke cleared, all but one of the 20 or so multi-million-dollar homes that lined Greenhorn Road were still standing amidst lawns of greens bordered by charred grass, singed aspen trees. All that was left of the home that burned were two chimneys, metal patio furniture and, oddly enough, a wooden bench that had survived the fire. Five blackened pines, bereft of branch-
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A weekly arts & entertainment paper serving the Wood River Valley and outlying areas.