Wood River Valley starts to tally losses from Idaho's Beaver Creek Fire

While the blaze that threatened Hailey and Ketchum has waned, businesses lost millions as it drove tourists away.

TIMES-NEWS (TWIN FALLS)August 31, 2013 

KETCHUM — More than 100 business owners packed Ketchum’s Community Library on Thursday to assess direct and indirect losses from the 111,488-acre Beaver Creek Fire, which tore through the area this month during the peak of the summer season.

When the Castle Rock Fire hit the area in 2007, it burned 46,000 acres in 20 days. That alone cost the Sun Valley-Ketchum economy about $3.5 million in lost revenue, said Doug Brown of We Are One, which encourages people to buy local products.

“It’s much more devastating, much worse than Castle Rock,” Brown said.

Indeed, Beaver Creek not only charred far more territory, but also destroyed an outbuilding and prompted the evacuations of more than 2,200 Ketchum and Sun Valley residents earlier this month. An additional 7,750 residents were under pre-evacuation orders.

So the economic losses are expected to be significantly higher, though authorities didn’t yet have an estimate.

Thursday’s meeting was the first step in assessing the financial losses. Not until mid-September will Sun Valley businesses know what their options are to offset the August losses, said Joe Herring, president of the Region IV Development Association.

While the Beaver Creek Fire was raging, Gov. Butch Otter declared the state a disaster area. Federal officials now are working to determine whether the wildfire constituted a national disaster, too, which could mean economic help for local merchants.

Economic development leaders plan to work with private and public officials statewide on economic damage control. Already, $5,000 worth of radio ads have aired to lure tourists and seasonal residents back.

The wildfire curtailed the symphony season and canceled an annual writer’s summit in Sun Valley.

But Wagon Days — Sun Valley’s biggest summer event — started Thursday night with its Wild West parade and continues into Monday. Locals hope the event tells tourists that Sun Valley is open for business.

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