US firefighters step up battle against Idaho blaze; resort towns menaced

US firefighters step up battle against Idaho blaze; resort towns menaced

Firefighters mounted on Sunday an all-out ground and air attack on an Idaho wildfire that has forced the evacuation of some 2,250 homes and threatened the world-class ski resort of Sun Valley, where snow-making water cannons were used to keep the flames at bay.

The fire raging across parched sagebrush, grasslands and pine forests near high-end developments in the Sun Valley area has consumed 101,000 acres and destroyed one home and seven other buildings since lightning sparked the blaze on August 7.

More than 1,000 firefighters were engaged in what fire officials called "a heavy air show" and ground assault in a drive to gain the upper hand over a blaze stoked by dry, hot weather and strong, gusting winds.

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

Airplane tankers dumping payloads of fire retardant and helicopters dropping water bolstered the fight on Sunday to protect the 5,128 residences, 1,399 commercial properties and 3,729 outbuildings threatened by the fire.

For the first time since the so-called Beaver Creek blaze erupted, weather conditions on Sunday turned in favour of the firefighters.

A rise in humidity levels overnight paired with calmer winds gave crews an edge in efforts to subdue flames that have advanced on affluent neighborhoods around the tourist town of Hailey and resort communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley to the north.

Authorities have put the value of land and property threatened in the resort region, known as the Wood River Valley, at US$8 billion (S$10 billion). The area contains the homes of such celebrities as film director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Hanks and singer and actress Barbra Streisand.

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