IMAGE: SMOKE FROM FIRE OVER KETCHUM
Kari Greer  /  InciWeb
Smoke from the nearby wildfire is seen from the main street in Ketchum, Idaho, on Aug. 22. Firefighters have since gained the upper hand against the fire that threatened the Sun Valley resort community.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/28/2007 11:09:17 AM ET 2007-08-28T15:09:17

Better weather and reduced winds should give firefighters a chance to gain more ground against the flames that had threatened Sun Valley's $12 million ski lodge and hundreds of homes in the resort area.

Firefighters on Monday sprayed water with snowmaking machines to save the lodge from the fire, which over the weekend had forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes.

The blaze was 44 percent contained late Monday. Cooler temperatures were expected Tuesday and Wednesday should be cloudy with a chance of rain.

Wind gusting to 45 mph on Sunday had fanned the main blaze and spread smaller spot fires that blackened ski runs on part of Sun Valley Resort's Bald Mountain and nearly reached the Seattle Ridge Lodge above the resort town of Ketchum, fire and resort officials said.

On Monday, the wind died, slowing the fire's growth.

"It was much more cooperative today," fire spokesman Jay Nichols said. "We're looking good on a lot of the areas, but we still have some problem areas."

Firefighters working with resort crews cranked up a dozen snowmaking guns Sunday night, using the high-pressure sprays to put out the spot fires and soak the ground around the 17,000-square-foot lodge, said Jack Sibbach, the resort's sales and marketing director.

"We're all feeling a lot better today," Sibbach told The Associated Press on Monday. "We were all pretty anxious last night. The firefighters did a tremendous job last night. That building would be tough to replace."

The main blaze has led to the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes in and near Ketchum and blackened more than 64 square miles since it was started by lightning earlier this month.

Flames have gotten to within 1 1/2 miles of residential areas south and west of the central Idaho town.

No buildings have been damaged and no injuries have been reported, but evacuations remain in effect, firefighting spokesman Jay Nichols said.

Public schools, scheduled to open for classes on Monday, were closed through Tuesday.

Sibbach said Sun Valley Resort remained open and a convention planned there this week will go on as planned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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