Fire at Redfish Lake closes campsites, lodge

With popular area affected, people seek other options in Sawtooth Valley

(TWIN FALLS) TIMES NEWSJuly 24, 2013 

Smoke, helicopters and water all occupied the Sawtooth Valley sky Tuesday, with firefighters targeting the 210 Road Fire near Redfish Lake and Stanley. Some structures were threatened but as of nightfall had not burned.

ED GLAZAR — For the Times-News

REDFISH LAKE - Flames lashed out at one of Idaho's most beloved locations Tuesday, threatening a fish hatchery and forcing evacuations of the nearby Buckhorn subdivision, campgrounds and the historic Redfish Lake Lodge.

The 210 Road Fire ignited Monday afternoon on state land close to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery near Idaho 75, and it reached 300 acres by Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze was just one of 11 burning statewide Tuesday, with more than 1,000 firefighters, fire managers and support staff assigned to the various fires.

Not far from the Sawtooth hatchery, firefighters manned helicopters to protect a row of houses and yurts Tuesday. The fire consumed the beetle-killed trees Monday night, but copters were dropping water to defend against small, advancing flames.

Nearby campsites remained vacant, and empty tents flapped from the gusts of wind the helicopter produced.

An evacuation order for the lodge and some houses remained in effect Tuesday.

"The lodge and the campgrounds were not immediately threatened," fire spokeswoman Linda Steinhaus said. "The evacuation was really all about public safety at the time."

Stacey Clark, spokeswoman with the U.S. Forest Service, said campers were being allowed to retrieve stuff left behind Monday.

RESIDENTS EVACUATED

When the blaze burned to the edge of the fish hatchery, which includes dormitories and nearby residences, inhabitants fled temporarily. The fire burned through a stand of trees separating the dorms from residences.

Fenceposts lay broken and charred, but the fire somehow did not destroy any structures. The visitors center at the hatchery, which raises chinook and sockeye salmon, will remain closed until further notice.

An elite Type 1 command staff was summoned to take over at the fire. Nearly 250 fire personnel are helping contain and manage the blaze, Clark said. Along with helicopters and an air tanker, four Hotshot crews, four hand crews and 18 engines had responded.

Smoke was no longer billowing into a single column but dispersed throughout Stanley and trailed 60 miles south into Ketchum on Tuesday.

Firefighters aren't estimating when they can contain the fire, as it burns dry and dead lodgepole pine along with plenty of brush.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

WHERE TO HIKE, CAMP?

The Stanley Ranger District saw a steady flow of hikers, campers and firefighters looking for information about the 210 Road Fire.

Kristine Kraushaar spent almost an hour working with rangers, trying to find out where her family could and could not hike safely.

They had come Monday afternoon to camp, but by the time they reached Redfish Lake, the smoke had kidnapped the sky, and paths to the lake were closed.

Nabbing a spot at Stanley Lake, Kraushaar wasn't going to let the fire ruin her family's vacation.

"We like Redfish because it's good for kids," she said. "We're hearing that it might open before we leave on Sunday."

Flames jumped Idaho 75 on Monday night, forcing the highway's closure. Although the road reopened Tuesday, officials said motorists should call the highway department before traveling to the area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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