Let the Healing Begin

A group of firefighters enjoys the well wishes of the community at the picnic Sunday night

A group of firefighters enjoyed the well wishes of the community at the picnic Sunday night

For those of us who hold the Wood River Valley in a special place in their hearts, there really aren’t enough superlatives to describe how we feel about the firefighters who worked so hard to protect this one-of-a-kind place earlier this month.

According to Vicki Minor, Director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the affinity and admiration we hold for the heroes of the Beaver Creek Fire is reciprocated. Following Sunday night’s barbecue and concert at the River Run Plaza to honor and thank the firefighters, Minor received feedback unlike any she has ever heard.

“A lot of emotional healing started for our people at the base of Bald Mountain this weekend,” Minor said during a phone interview from her headquarters in Boise. “For this community to turn around after such a stressful experience and give tribute to our wildland firefighters … it was like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. I don’t know if you know what your tribe up there did for our tribe.”

More than 2,000 brave firefighters battled the blaze that threatened the Wood River Valleytwo weeks ago

More than 2,000 brave firefighters battled the blaze that threatened the Wood River Valley

For the men and women whose job it is to walk toward scenes like this one out Greenhorn Gulch, the tribute they received from the community was met with heartfelt appreciation

For the men and women whose job it is to walk toward scenes like this one out Greenhorn Gulch, the tribute they received from the community was met with heartfelt appreciation

Minor explained it’s been a particularly deadly and tragic wildland firefighting season, with 32 valiant firefighters lost. “I deal with death and tragedy and this was a very healing experience,” she said, “we’ve never been treated so well.”

Sunday evening’s events invited all firefighters and their families to enjoy a full western barbecue, drinks and entertainment, courtesy of Sun Valley. “The food was amazing. The crowd was amazing. It was a night to remember,” Minor said. “No one could believe Sun Valley and community there were doing all of this for them.”

To thank firefighters Sunday night, the food was plentiful, delicious and free

To thank firefighters Sunday night, the food was plentiful, delicious and free

According to Minor, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is also amazed by the monetary support of the Wood River Valley. “The money hasn’t stopped rolling in,” she said. “The generosity of this community is unparalleled.” Monies raised at the special presentation of Sun Valley On Ice Saturday night, at the barbecue Sunday night, as well as contributions coming directly to the Boise office totaled more than $30,000 as of Monday afternoon. As we spoke, Minor exclaimed, “I just opened another $2,500 check from Sun Valley.”

Many contributions were not large, but were no less meaningful to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. During the ice show Saturday night, for instance, many children put a handful of small bills into the collection jar, one explaining that is was tooth fairy money he wanted to give to the heroes.

A double rainbow greeted the firefighters at River Run -- things were definitely looking up

A double rainbow greeted the firefighters at River Run -- things were definitely looking up

Every donation, no matter how large or small, counts. “This money will help so many firefighters and their families in an immediate, tangible way,” Minor said.

One big check delivered on Sunday evening came from Cox Communications. In addition to donating $5,000 to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Minor said Cox also provided an invaluable service to the fire teams at the height of the crisis. Within 24-hours of the creation of the Incident Command Post, the local team of the communications company moved in to provide wireline Internet connections. This served not only to allow incident managers to get out incredibly timely information about the fire, it also served another critical purpose.

“In this very scary fire season, families quickly get worried when they don’t hear from their firefighter,” Minor explained. “What Cox did in this case was give the more than 2,000 firefighters at the camp the ability to easily call home which was invaluable.”

Guy Cherp of Cox Communications (right) presents a check to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, one of many given over the course of the weekend

Guy Cherp of Cox Communications (right) presents a check to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, one of many donations made over the course of the weekend

Guy Cherp, Vice President of Operations at Cox, who presented the check Sunday night said, “Cox was honored to provide a means for firefighters to communicate with loved ones.” He continued, “It was impressive to work with the great people fighting the fire, which includes our Wood River Valley firefighters. Cox is deeply grateful and appreciative of the firefighters putting their life on the line to protect our community and we were so moved by their heroic efforts that we wanted to support them.”

“The fire season isn’t over yet,” Minor said, “but Sun Valley’s response to our people made the rest of the journey for these people so much better. We saw a whole community come together to take care of each other and to take care of us. This was medicine for the firefighters’ souls.”

–RES

Sun Valley Salutes Firefighters and Looks Forward to Labor Day

The simple sign at the base of River Run said it all Sunday night

The simple sign at the base of River Run said it all Sunday night

The intermittent heavy rain that fell this weekend offered more than a hint of the poetic following the raging wildfires that threatened the Wood River Valley just a week ago. As the moisture swept through in waves during Saturday night’s Sun Valley On Ice show that benefited the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, and again on Sunday, during a huge picnic and concert at River Run honoring the 2,000-plus heroes who fought the behemoth Beaver Creek Fire, there was no question there was change in the air. With her thunderous announcements in the evening sky, Mother Nature proclaimed that Sun Valley had turned a corner – that it’s time, again, to look ahead.

Visitors and locals mingled with fire professionals at the base of River Run, looking forward to enjoying the rest of the summer

Visitors and locals mingled with fire professionals at the base of River Run and looked forward to enjoying the rest of the summer

Sunday evening’s party at the base of Baldy’s River Run drew firefighters from all over the state and country who were part of the Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1. It also drew our local heroes from the Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and Wood River Fire Departments. To say thank you, Sun Valley distributed 565 tickets to firefighters and their families, providing a full western barbecue and beverages, all for free.

A little rain couldn't keep the crowd away from the party at River Run where locals and visitors were able to thank firefighters in person

A little rain couldn't keep the crowd away from the party at River Run

In the light drizzle, the firefighters, still in uniform, looked relaxed and happy, enjoying live music from local bands Up a Creek and Old Death Whisper. They shook hands with appreciative locals and visitors alike and by all accounts, greatly enjoyed the party thrown in their honor.

“We thought we’d have the picnic to bring the entire community together to thank the firefighters,” said Jack Sibbach, Head of Sun Valley Marketing. “This fire affected the entire Wood River Valley and this was a great opportunity for everyone to gather in one place and say thank you. It’s also the time for all of us to now look forward to the rest of the summer and the fall.”

At the storied Sun Valley ice show Saturday night, the fire’s Incident Commander Beth Lund also expressed her appreciation for the huge turnout, the support for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and for the Valley that so clearly valued her team’s efforts. She reiterated how dangerous a job it is to fight these fires and how organizations like the Wildland Firefighter Foundation provide critical help to families who suffer a loss or an injury amid the unpredictable flames.

Admission to Saturday's Sun Valley On Ice was free, but donations were accepted on behalf of the Wildland Firefighters Foundation

Admission to Saturday's Sun Valley On Ice was free, but donations were accepted on behalf of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

The cast of Sun Valley On Ice then emerged under the lights wearing fire hats and skated from the heart, honoring the events of the past weeks. The show was provided free to guests with a suggested donation to the firefighters.

Sun Valley truly has turned a corner; skies are clear, the sun is shining. Those short-lived evening rain showers washed away any remaining ash and soot and changed the entire feeling up and down the Wood River Valley.

Starting Wednesday, jump on the gondola and head up to Roundhouse for lunch with a pretty spectacular view

Starting Wednesday, jump on the gondola and head up to Roundhouse for lunch with a pretty spectacular view

Now it’s time to end the summer on a high note. Bald Mountain reopens to foot, bike and gondola traffic on Wednesday, August 28.  The gondola will run daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and the deck at Roundhouse Restaurant will offer a daily barbecue. There is no more scenic place to eat. Beginning Friday, the famous taco bar at Lookout also makes and end-of-summer, back-by-popular demand appearance.

Sun Valley has extended its sale on winter passes through September 15. Don’t miss this opportunity to save up to $350 on what promises to be an amazing snow season. This year, there are seven passes from which to choose, including a new Young Adult Pass, as well as a new installment payment plan for select products. Come by the River Run Ticketing Office, buy a $15 ticket for the gondola and check out what’s new for the coming season!  While you’re at River Run Plaza, be sure to also pop into Brass Ranch and check out the sale in progress.

The centerpiece of the Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade is something you have to see to believe

The centerpiece of the Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade is something you have to see to believe

For Labor Day weekend, it’s on! Festivities begin in earnest on Friday and run all the way through the Monday holiday. Highlights include: an antique car show and auction, Rebecca Rusch’s Private Idaho bike tour, pancake breakfasts in Ketchum, the final ice show of the season featuring crowd favorite Johnny Weir, rodeos, antique and art shows, an Art Gallery walk, a western shoot-out, and of course, the Big Hitch Parade. Be sure to be in Sun Valley during one of the best Labor Day celebrations in the nation.

And it’s not over after Labor Day! September in Sun Valley is a spectacular month during which to golf, hike, bike, fly fish … you name it. This year, it is also a spectacular month for music. Tickets are on sale now for Reckless Kelly, playing September 6 at the Sun Valley Pavilion and Clint Black who will entertain under the sail on September 12.

Again, we thank the amazing firefighters for giving us the gift of enjoying this upcoming Labor Day celebration and the renewed opportunity to truly appreciate the beauty and splendor of our one-of-a-kind valley.

Rest up now. It’s about to get busy!

–RES