HAILEY • Firefighters have contained almost 30 percent of the Beaver Creek Fire burning in the Wood River Valley.
As more mandatory evacuations begin to lift, the Wood River Valley was beginning to show signs of normalcy Tuesday.
Bars in Ketchum had thrown open their once-closed doors as locals strolled the sidewalks stopping to say hi and offer their relief that the beloved annual "Wagon Days" would not be cancelled.
These everyday pieces of life were stripped away after the 106,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire began threatening homes and communities last week. Law enforcement officials ordered mandatory evacuations beginning Aug. 16 and alerted thousands more that they were under a pre-evacuation notice.
The Beaver Creek Fire has been classified one of the nation's top priority wildfires for almost a week. The fire has demanded the supply of hundreds engines, dozers, crews and massive air tankers to contain and suppress the flames. The cost of firefighting efforts on this fire has reached more than $11.6 million to date.
Overall, the West's increase in fire activity has caused the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center to declare the nation's fire preparedness at Level V. Meaning, there was a chance of resource shortages with 80 percent of the country's experienced and trained fire management teams in use.
The agency has only declared the nation to be at such an extreme level five times in the past 10 years.
Yet, thanks to a break in the weather pattern and the arrival of air tankers and more firefighters, many of the mandatory evacuations were lifted as of Tuesday.
Around base camp, where the firefighters and managers are stationed, whispers of confidence were uttered behind tents and near information stations. But in town, residents were all smiles that they received word that they were no longer banned from going home.
Jim Liesenfeld and his wife, Colleen Crane, packed up their dog and cat Friday afternoon to evacuate their home along Deer Creek Road, south of Ketchum. The fire was dancing above the ridges surrounding their home and officers knocking on their doors were asking them to leave immediately.
"It was incredible," Liesenfeld said. "I hope I never have to see that again."
The couple would continue to face obstacles for the rest of the weekend. Once they fled their home, they went to stay at a friend's house in Hailey. By Saturday, law enforcement knocked on the door in Hailey and told them to leave.
Liesenfeld and Crane would have to evacuate one more time before settling into a campsite in Bellevue Sunday night.
It wasn't until Monday that Deer Creek Road west of the bridge was no longer under a mandatory evacuation and the two were allowed to go home.
"I started my two-week vacation on Friday, the day we were evacuated," he said. "We wanted to go camping so I guess we kinda did."
Farther down the road, Maddie and her mother Denise Cordovano were also returning home after evacuating on Friday.
"It's amazing how little you have to take once they tell to prepare to evacuate," Denise said. "We grabbed some photos, important papers, the passports and that's about it."
Nigel Whittington, also a Deer Creek Road resident, agreed.
"Took the artwork and a toothbrush," he said.