The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

August 23, 2013

Beastly fire disrupts Idaho vacation heaven

(Continued)

This summer's fires haven't been anywhere near that disruptive. The biggest fire in Yellowstone, one that has burned about 12 square miles in the Hayden Valley area, for a time Tuesday closed the road that follows the Yellowstone River between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village. By Wednesday, the road had reopened. Later that day, half an inch of rain fell on the fire.

Idaho's Beaver Creek Fire is finally nearing containment, as firefighters take advantage of favorable weather to corral it up against an area burned by another large blaze in 2007. But it will continue to smoke for weeks.

More than just torching sage, high-desert grassland and trees, however, its impact has scorched the local economy.

Todd Van Bramer, who manages fly fishing guides at Silver Creek Outfitters in nearby Ketchum, said he's lost 70 percent of his normal business.

"We have a lot of customers who can go anywhere they want to," he said. "They don't have to come to Idaho if it's burning, they can go to Montana, Colorado or Wyoming at the drop of a hat."

The air is now much less smoky than it was during the height of the fire, but the smoke continues to cast a shadow over the economy.

At the airport in Hailey, just south of here, regional carrier Sky West has been forced to divert many morning flights to Twin Falls, about 100 miles away, because cooler morning temperatures mean smoke often loiters on the valley floor until afternoon breezes push it away.

And those planes are much emptier than an ordinary mid-August, said Rick Baird, manager at Friedman Memorial Airport.

The Sun Valley Lodge, built in 1936 by the Union Pacific Railroad as America's first destination resort, is bearing the brunt of disruption.

A writer's conference that was to have featured speakers including journalist Peter Bergen and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Liaquat Ahamed was canceled, emptying rooms by the dozen. Guests who cancel are getting refunds, said Jack Sibbach, a resort spokesman.

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