'Angry' Idaho fire spreads to 126,000 acres, threatens luxury resort homes


NBC News

More than 10,000 homes are threatened by a furious Idaho wildfire, including getaways owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, after an all-out "ground and air attack" failed to stop the blaze spreading to more than 126,000 acres, according to latest reports from the U.S. Forest Service.

"Take your essentials, belongings and pets and GO NOW," a news release on inciweb warned those in the path of the lightning-sparked Beaver Creek fire.

Despite an army of more than 1,200 firefighters, the blaze continues to spread across parched sagebrush, grasslands and pine forests in the Sun Valley area. The fire now covers an area larger then the city of Denver.

"Every fire has a personality, and this fire has an angry personality," Beth Lund, and incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service team managing the blaze in central Idaho told Reuters.

The fire has displaced occupants of at least 2,250 homes in posh developments outlying the Sun Valley Resort -- an all-season vacation getaway famed for its world-class skiing and rich-and-famous residents -- and the towns of Ketchum and Hailey immediately to the south.

Another 7,700 homes are under what is known as pre-evacuation, giving residents time to pack up essential belongings and get ready to go at a moment's notice if the fire grows closer.

At Sun Valley, workers turned on water cannons usually used to make snow to wet down a mountain whose southeastern face was the scene of a concentrated assault by firefighters. 

"We've fired up the snow-making guns," resort spokesman Jack Sibbach, told The Associated Press. 

Red-flag conditions, including higher temperatures and wind gusts up to 38 miles per hour, did not help firefighters tackling the blaze.

Kevin Noth, lead meteorologist at Weather.com, said that conditions Monday and Tuesday -- including temperatures pushing into the 90s -- would continue to “hinder” firefighters.

“There’s better news coming,” he added. “It looks like more clouds and higher humidity for midweek. There might also be some thunderstorms, which could bring some rain -- but the possibility of lightning too.”  

Retardant was dropped Sunday on the flank of Bald Mountain — the Sun Valley Resort's primary ski hill — to reinforce a fire line, fire spokeswoman Shawna Hartman told KTVB.

That meant the famed ski mountain known as "Baldy" and often used in publicity photos would have a red line of retardant visible from Ketchum.

Hartman expressed cautious optimism about their prospects for curtailing the blaze in the next week.

"Today they're very optimistic that we will reinforce those lines in case the fire does flare up as we saw on Thursday and Friday,"  Hartman told the KTVB. 

About 20 Idaho National Guardsmen arrived in Hailey on Sunday to assist sheriff's deputies with road blocks, the station reported.

The West has already suffered a series of destructive wildfires in 2013. Colorado experienced the most destructive wildfire in its history in June, which killed two and destroyed about 500 structures. As that fire burned, 11 other fires plagued the state and more threatened other parts of the Southwest.

The following month, 19 heavily trained Hotshot firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona.