Businesses hit hard by Idaho fire

With evacuations in place and smoke making the outdoors less enjoyable, mountain towns lose customers.

sberg@idahostatesman.comAugust 19, 2013 

  • A friend in need: Getting possessions out before wildfire reaches a home

    With fire threatening her family’s house near Hailey, Bev Harad found a reason to be grateful.

    She was already at her regular home in Boise when the order came to evacuate the Hailey house. She had left four days earlier because smoke from the Pony and Elk complexes to the west made her time in the mountains less enjoyable.

    She had a list of irreplaceable items she wanted retrieved from the Hailey house, but she had no way of getting to them before the evacuation deadline was in place. Through Facebook, offers to help came pouring in.

    A friend managed to get the items just as deputies were making sure people were out of their homes.

    “In times of crisis, it’s amazing how many people are so good,” Harad said.

    Harad admitted, however, that watching the fire’s boundaries creep toward her house was unnerving. Part of the stress comes from not knowing exactly how close the flames are.

    “It could have been in the backyard,” she said.

There was defiance in the greeting on Ketchum Grill’s answering machine Sunday afternoon.

“We are open,” it said. “We will remain open until the sheriff department tells us we must evacuate.”

The greeting went on to encourage the listener to come have dinner at the restaurant. But the number of potential customers in the region had dwindled, with thousands of people already evacuated from their homes and thousands more warned that evacuation could be around the corner.

As of Sunday night, Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey was not allowing people to return to evacuated areas just north of Hailey. A county spokesman said the sheriff was considering removing mandatory evacuation orders for a few hundred people in that area. The decision was likely to come Mondaymorning, the spokesman said.

The Beaver Creek Fire’s effect on businesses across the county was obvious. About 90 percent of Ketchum’s places were closed Friday and Saturday, Ketchum Grill manager Louise Schenck said.

Some of the restaurants were open again Sunday, but business was anything but booming, Schenck said.

“It’s a ghost town,” she said.

Eve Rodriguez, who works at the Burger Grill in Ketchum, said the same thing. She said the fire had devastated business in what is usually a busy time.

Easley Hot Springs just north of Ketchum was in an area that Ramsey ordered evacuated. Galena Lodge, about 25 miles north of Ketchum on Highway 75, closed Saturday after power in the area was shut down.

Erin Zell, co-owner of the lodge, said she was scrambling to help find alternative locations for weddings scheduled to take place at the lodge the next couple of weeks. Zell said she didn’t know how serious the fire’s bottom-line toll would be. The lodge has never gone through this, she said.

“It’s going to be pretty detrimental,” Zell said. “Everybody’s had a great summer up to this point, so you’ve got to be thankful for what you’ve got and know that next summer is going to be better.”

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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