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Updated: August 16th, 2012 7:15 PM

Fire burning in forest west of Ketchum

By :EXPRESS STAFF

U.S. Forest Service officials are reporting a 250-acre wildfire in the Enclosure Gulch area west of Ketchum, just seven-tenths of a mile from where the Castle Rock Fire started five years ago.

Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said that in less than two hours the fire had grown rapidly from the one acre first reported at 3 p.m. this afternoon. The cause of the fire is yet unknown.

Nelson said that winds from the southwest are pushing the fire into the area burned by the Castle Rock Fire in 2007. If it follows that path, the fire will burn slower and less hot, giving crews a chance to fight it. However, he said, if winds shift to the northwest, the fire could be pushed into the Deer Creek and Greenhorn Gulch drainages.

"It is a concern," Nelson said. "The growth potential, the rate of speed ... it's doubled in size every half hour."

The fire is still five miles from any houses. Nelson said that air resources and smokejumpers have been called, but were unable to land because of smoke both from the fire, called the Enclosure Fire, and the Halstead Fire, an 80,000-acre blaze north of Stanley.

Currently, Nelson said there are Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service helitack teams fighting the fire, as well as volunteers from local fire departments in the area for structure protection. Hand crews, engines and tankers are on scene along with approximately 25 personnel.

"We're getting attention," Nelson said. "We are a priority."

Travis Wyatt, meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Pocatello, said that winds were set to die down overnight as a high-pressure ridge moves into the area. There is no red-flag fire warning in place, and Wyatt said there likely won't be one until Saturday as winds pick up and thunderstorms are ready to sweep in.

Initial concerns that winds might push the fire towards homes in the Frenchman's Bend subdivision about 2.5 miles to the east prompted a call to Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments, already stretched thin due to sending aid to the Halstead fire near Stanley.

A "Structure Protection Task Force," or, firefighters and equipment, was rallied around 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot of River Run and were advised that though there were no evacuations at this time, residents should be told to be prepared to leave if they have to. By 7 p.m., crews were also being sent to speak to residents of the Greenhorn subdivision to alert them to the situation.

"The smoke's going to get worse before it gets better," Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle told the Idaho Mountain Express.

Elle requests that Wood River Valley residents and concerned citizens not call the Fire Department for information, but to instead refer to the Idaho Mountain Express and Blaine County websites for updates on the situation. Phone calls to the department have clogged the phone lines and disrupted communication with his staff, he said.

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