Wildfire Threatening Multi-Million Dollar Homes Near Resort Town

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Firefighters battled on Friday to check a fast-moving wildfire raging near the Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho, where more than 1,000 people were evacuated as flames menaced multimillion-dollar homes in the area, authorities said. The so-called Beaver Creek Fire, the nation's top firefighting priority, has raced across 64,000 acres of mountains and canyons intersected by luxury housing developments since it was sparked by lightning in the Sawtooth National Forest on August 7.

Occupants of more than 1,300 dwellings have been ordered to evacuate and the tourist towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley have been told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice, said Blaine County spokeswoman Bronwyn Nickel.

It was unclear how many people were affected by the mandatory evacuations, which were tied to outlying residential developments mostly south of Ketchum and Sun Valley and not in city limits.

"Conditions are changing rapidly, the fire is fast and furious," Nickel said on Friday night. The fire is one of dozens of destructive blazes in Western states, many of them fed by drought conditions, unusually high temperatures and fierce winds.

On Friday near the Idaho ski resort, in the state's Wood River Valley, plumes of smoke towered over the area, at the height of a summer recreation season that drives the local economy.

U.S. Forest Service and other fire crews had lost ground against the blaze by Friday morning, with a containment estimate of 11 percent on Wednesday dropping to 9 percent.

One flank of a blaze edged closer on Friday to Ketchum, just minutes from the community of Sun Valley and its namesake ski resort, which fire officials said faced no immediate threat.

In the towns of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley, foot traffic was light as thick smoke reduced visibility and hampered driving on the only highway that connects the three communities.

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