HAILEY • As if the enormous Beaver Creek Fire hadn’t posed enough danger, now parts of the Wood River Valley are mired in 1½ feet of mud and debris pushed down the denuded mountainsides by heavy rains pummeling the area.
In Greenhorn Gulch, mudslides oozed down both ridges lining the road. Shale shimmied down from mountaintops and lay scattered across a lawn Tuesday.
At its prime, the 111,490-acre Beaver Creek Fire threatened thousands of Ketchum and Sun Valley homes and caused thousands of residents to evacuate. It was the nation’s top priority wildfire for more than a week and cost a hefty $25 million to fully suppress.
Yet now that the flames have been quelled, the aftermath of the fire’s devastation is beginning to peak.
Defoliated soil along steep ridges is eroding quickly, increasing the risk of mudslides. Sections of the road leading to Croy Creek Canyon just west of Hailey were mired in 1½ feet of dirt and debris Tuesday.
The landscape has changed since the fire burst through. Gone are the secured grasses and brush anchoring the dirt along the mountainside. Heavy rains Monday night had pushed topsoil and ash down the ridge and onto the roads.
With flash flood warnings in effect for most of the Wood River Valley, many expect that more damage is on its way.
“It’s just a sh-- show,” said Brad Logan, a home caretaker. “We had the fire that wiped everything out, and now we have the erosion. It’s like a double whammy."
“Debris completely covered the (Croy Creek) road,” said Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey.
Traffic was limited to one lane, but one vehicle drove too far over and became stuck in the mud, Ramsey said. The driver was not injured.
Meanwhile, ballooning traffic polluted the road to Greenhorn Gulch. Eager drivers and cyclists were snaking through, hoping to catch a peek of the damage, and insurance representatives had pulled to the roadsides to assess property destruction.
One neighborhood resident in a pickup truck slowed to scream at a bicyclist that the area’s troubles shouldn’t be treated as a sideshow.
None of the homes in Greenhorn Gulch was caught in the slides, but some of the private dirt roads leading to homes were wiped out.
Greenhorn Gulch took the harshest hit from the Beaver Creek Fire. It was the only road where a home was consumed by flames, and almost every house came within inches of the fire’s edges.
“This is normally a quiet road,” said one Greenhorn resident. “We were gone when the fire came through, and when we came back, our porch and welcome mats had been completely burned. The road has never seen this much activity.“
U.S. Forest Service surveyors were beginning to assess the damage Tuesday, said Eric Schroder, assessment team leader for the Beaver Creek Fire.
The Burned Area Emergency Response team is in charge of determining rates of erosion in burned areas and recommending treatments. The goal is to spot possible public safety threats and find ways to protect natural and cultural resources, Schroder said.
“It’s still early, but we hope to be done surveying by Friday and have possible treatment recommendations by next week,” he said.
Meanwhile, the need for cleanup is benefiting the unemployed, said Nick Rogers, of B&G Dirtworks.
“I know a lot of people who didn’t have jobs who are now on cleanup,” he said.
Logan was working with a private excavation company Tuesday to repair a bloated and mishmashed driveway along Greenhorn Gulch.
Staff writer Alison Smith contributed to this report.