Dramatic, uncertain, awesome (in the true sense of the word): It has been a week to remember in Sun Valley. As the Beaver Creek wildfire took control of the topography surrounding our beautiful valley, bending residents and visitors to its will, more than 100,000 acres were engulfed in a week’s time. Upwards of 2,000 homes were evacuated and close to 1,800 fire personnel from all over the nation and all over Idaho stepped into the flames and smoke. Fire visible from the State Highway 75 ran up and down mountains while the air traffic overhead, comprised of attack helicopters, small planes and even DC-10s, worked to beat it back.
And while this crisis isn’t over, when I returned to the Wood River Valley and to my home on Monday, after three days away, things were definitely looking up. Through the valiant efforts of firefighters, many residents this week were allowed back into their homes. In Ketchum, though quiet for August, people enjoyed lunch outside beneath increasingly blue skies, shopped great sales and a few friends I know even enjoyed a round of golf Tuesday morning. In true Ketchum spirit, people were out running and biking the local paths.
While it is crucial to emphasize that this fire is only about ten percent contained and the most important thing we can all do is stay out of the way of emergency responders, listen to law enforcement and let everyone do their job, I have to admit, I was thrilled to be home. With my evacuated parents taking up residence with us for a time, Monday night we settled back in, thankful and humbled by the events swirling around us.
Sun Valley is place that breeds fierce loyalty. Very few people simply ‘end up’ here. The vast majority of residents, second homeowners and visitors very deliberately choose Sun Valley for everything that makes it unique. We choose to raise our children amid peace and security. We choose to retire in a place where there is a close-knit community. We choose to vacation amid some of the most spectacular lands in the country offering unbeatable skiing and snowboarding, cross-country, fly-fishing, mountain biking and on and on. We choose Sun Valley.
This isn’t just a place. It is a way of life. It is a valley personified by exactly the type of behavior seen during this fire – that of open invitations to guest rooms, couches, transportation, information. It is a place where neighbors take care of one another; where a familiar face spotted when away from town feels like a member of the family.
Sun Valley Resort is also an exceptional neighbor. This week, many evacuees chose to move to safety and comfort at the Resort, taking up residence at the Lodge or Inn. The company worked closely with firefighters and emergency personnel in helping to protect all that is sacred here, including a symbol of what we value the most — Bald Mountain. Snowmaking guns were turned on full force to protect Seattle Ridge and the area below and everyone fought together, and continue to fight together, to make sure Baldy comes through this unscathed.
In addition, the Resort will offer its popular Sun Valley On Ice show general admission tickets free to the public on August 24. There, they will collect donations for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
As it becomes increasingly safe to return to a more normal routine, my suggestion is that everyone eat at our wonderful local restaurants, shop at the Sun Valley Village and Ketchum and Hailey’s one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries, frequent our local markets. Stay for Wagon Days over Labor Day weekend — it’s on – and enjoy the most memorable parade you will ever see as well as many other surrounding events. Supporting local businesses might be the most important thing we do once this blaze is contained.
From the ashes will come some spectacular wildflowers, an embarrassment of morels and, probably, some fantastic new backcountry skiing. After the Castle Rock fire, the ski season on Baldy was especially good. Next summer, Sun Valley will be in bloom and Mother Nature’s unbelievably violent housecleaning will inevitably produce new opportunities in and around the Wood River Valley.
Thank you, firefighters doesn’t begin to express it. Thank you emergency services personnel. Thank you neighbors. Please stay tuned to this blog for more information about developments in the Beaver Creek fire, opportunities for the community to come together and opportunities for visitors to enjoy our amazingly special Valley into the fall.
As for me, September is always my favorite month of the year and I am very, very happy to be home.