SHARE YOUR BEAVER CREEK FIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Join the ERC (Environmental Resource Center) and ICL (Idaho Conservation League) during Gallery Walk for an Open Exhibition inspired by the forces of nature. A prize will be given for the “People’s Choice Award”, based on voting during the exhibition. Donations will be accepted during the event for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

For information on how to submit your work for the exhibition, visit www.ercsv.org, Facebook ERC Sun Valley or email allison@ercsv.org. (If your curiosity is aroused by the photographs, you could join the ERC on a Fire Ecology Walk on October 19. Details on the walk at the same sources; preregistration required.)

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

There’s No Place Like Home

The view out Greenhorn last Wednesday, preceding Thursday evacuation of the area

The Beaver Creek Fire gears up for its devastating assault on Greenhorn Gulch Wednesday of last week

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 the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

Though the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

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.

Fighting fire -- ski resort style

Fighting fire -- ski resort style. The snow guns on Leigh Lane on Baldy's Seattle Ridge pumped water to keep slopes damp in case embers hit

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.

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

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.

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

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.

–RES

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon