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Firefighters Seek Help for Greenhorn Housing
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Monday, September 19, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Sun Valley Chief Taan Robrahn climbed through the tall yellow grass behind the Greenhorn Fire Station to a spot on the old railroad bed.

From there he pointed out a spot just south of the firehouse, which sits along Highway 75 just south of the traffic light at East Fork Road.

If all goes according to plan, this will become a neighborhood of eight prefabricated homes and an eight-bay detached garage for firefighters in the next six months. Four of the six 2-bedroom homes and two 1-bedroom homes would be ready for occupancy by December 2022 and four more in Spring 2023.

“Currently we have six units—a duplex with two-bedroom units and two single units inside the fire station,” he said. “Having onsite housing guarantees we’ll have people ready to respond on a moment’s notice any time of day or night.”

The project will cost $3.2 million, including a $1 per year lease on 2.3 acres land leased from Idaho Department of Transportation for 99 years.

The North Blaine County Fire District and City of Sun Valley have contributed $300,000 each to the project, while Blaine County kicked in $350,000 in ARPA funds. And the City of Sun Valley has borrowed $1.5 million to get the project underway right away.

They are seeking private tax-deductible donations to help fund the rest of the project’s $3.2 million cost and repay the debt.

The more money they can raise, the less rent the firefighters have to pay.

“Right now, we have 11 full-time fire fighters, 21 paid on call,” said Robrahn. “We invest a lot of money in training these guys and gals so having the ability to keep them will help save on our investment.”

The Sun Valley Board of Realtors is among those who have stepped up. They presented a $10,000 check for the Greenhorn Housing project during an open house and dedication of a new fire engine earlier this week.

“Our September fires have shown how critical it is to have firefighters living in our community. It is critical that our first responders live close by in order to be there quickly when we need them,” said Jed Gray, a realtor who also chairs the North Blaine County Fire District.

The new homes would be 840 square feet with an outside deck.

The price per unit is less than $300 for square foot including the garage. The whole project, including infrastructure and landscaping is only another $176 per square foot.

Priority will be given to firefighters contracted with the North Blaine County Fire District and the City of Sun Valley. But firefighters and paramedics from other jurisdictions will be considered as space is available.

 Those who work for the district include a firefighter who also works as a nurse, a firefighter who doubles as a Blaine County Sheriff’s deputy, and a firefighter who also serves as a wildland firefighter.

During the past two weeks, firefighters had 39 calls, including a fire that destroyed the Limelight Condominiums in Ketchum, a fire at a trailer home in the Meadows Trailer Park and another fire at a home in Warm Springs.

Many of the firefighters worked from 6:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, keeping fire from spreading from the Limelight Condominiums to nearby structures. Then they headed to Trail Creek Summit where they set up aid stations for the 1,500 participants in Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel bike event.

At 3 p.m. that day they got the call to provide structure protection to homes in Smiley Creek, which was under attack by the Ross Fork Fire. They were released from that at 9 a.m. Monday morning, Labor Day, only to be recalled later in the day as strong winds gave them a firefight they won’t soon forget.

Susie Hayes, who has a home in Smiley Creek, said it’s entirely possible that the community would have been wiped out had firefighters from the Wood River Valley not responded to the request of the Smiley Creek fire chief for help that weekend.

“It was scary,” said North Blaine County Fire Chief Richard Bauer. “House fires are usually pretty predictable, but wildland fires are very unpredictable. We lost two structures—couldn’t save them. And, even during the night, the fire was so big that it made everything so bright—like lightning illuminates the night.”

Donations for the firefighter housing can be made by credit card through the Spur Community Foundation at tinyurl.com/greenhornhousing or by check to Spur Community Foundation with “Greenhorn Housing” noted on the memo field. Mail checks to Box 6184, Ketchum, ID 83340. Questions? Call Spur at 208-450-2600.

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