Updated: 08/19/2013 5:44 PM KSTP.com By: Leslie Dyste
Some residents near a big wildfire in the central Idaho resort area of Ketchum and Sun Valley received permission to return home Monday, but many more remained out in the region while blazes elsewhere in the West prompted new evacuations or warnings to be on standby to leave.
Fires in California threatened hundreds of structures in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills and put a tiny ski town on alert in the Southern Sierra. Dozens of residents near The Dalles, Ore., were also on alert due to a complex of blazes.
In Idaho, residents of about 100 homes were allowed to return but about 2,000 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders due to the 160-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire, Blaine County spokeswoman Bronwyn Nickel said.
The blaze was only 8 percent contained, but about 1,150 firefighters including elite teams known as hotshots looked to reinforce fire lines with the help of 14 helicopters and likely other aircraft.
"There will be lot of air operations going on today," said fire spokesman Richard Reuse. "The weather is favorable. The hotshots are excited they will be able to go direct on the fire. They can do that more safely today. In combination with the air resources it looks like today will be a good day."
The fire grew only about 5 square miles on Sunday as firefighters took advantage of less windy conditions and aircraft zoomed in and out with retardant drops. Fire engines protected homes in the affluent area.
About 50 miles to the west, residents of the mountain town of Atlanta were told to leave by noon Monday because the 3-square-mile Little Queens Fire was about 6 miles away, burning through dry timber toward the community.
"It's very rugged and steep country," said fire spokeswoman Julie Thomas.
Thomas said a shortage of resources due to other large wildfires in the region hampered firefighting efforts. Only about 30 firefighters were at the fire and about 10 firefighters were called to parachute into the remote area, she said.
An Elmore County dispatcher said the town has about 30 full-time residents plus seasonal residents. She didn't have an estimate on the number of homes involved in the evacuation.
In Utah, fire officials lifted an evacuation Monday morning for about 100 residents in Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches in Summit County, about 45 miles east of Salt Lake City.
They had been displaced since Tuesday when lightning ignited a fast-moving blaze that burned seven houses and one yurt in those subdivisions. The 3.1-square mile fire was 90 percent contained.
The state's biggest blaze, the Patch Springs Fire southwest of Salt Lake City, was 45 percent contained. The 50-square-mile blaze hasn't grown since Saturday.
The potential for erratic winds Monday was also problematic for crews in Northern California, where the 3-square-mile Swedes Fire in Butte County had consumed one home and was threatening more than 400 structures. It was 45 percent contained, but evacuation orders for hundreds remained in place.
In the Southern Sierra, a lightning-sparked wildfire put residents of about 400 homes on alert in near the Alta Sierra ski area about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Lightning was continuing as turbulent air flowed into the region.
In Oregon, crews were battling the Government Flat Complex of wildfires near The Dalles.
Fire spokesman David Morman said the fires had scorched about 3,000 acres and were 12 percent contained Monday morning.
Residents of about 35 of the 70 homes threatened were told to prepare for evacuation, and a local water treatment plant was also prioritized for immediate protection, since it supplies water for much of The Dalles.
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