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Warm Springs Lodge to Rise from the Ashes
Friday, April 20, 2018


Sun Valley hopes to have the Warm Springs Lodge back in operation by the 2018-19 ski season, despite an early Thursday morning fire that caused significant damage, a spokesman said Thursday.

“We are looking forward to rebuilding it and making it better than ever,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, sun Valley’s vice president of Marketing. “And we expect it to be ready by next ski season.”

The elegant lodge—the first of five mountain lodges that Sun Valley Resort has built in the past quarter century—was gutted in an early morning fire Thursday just a a few days after closing for the 2017-18 ski season.

Sixty-three firefighters responded from Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and Wood River fire departments with eight engines, three ladder trucks and a pumper tanker truck.

But they were unable to corral flames that shot 30 feet into the air.

“It’s under a cold roof and we can’t get at it,” said Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle, referring to the space between the ceiling and the roof. Cold roofs are used to help prevent ice dams from forming.

The state fire marshal arrived by midday on Thursday, along with representatives from Alcohol, Fire and Tobacco. AFT officials are called in when the damage exceeds $1 million.

By then, the fire had been contained, although there were still hot spots that firefighters were trying to suppress.

Inspectors found a chimney that had buckled on the east side of the building where the shingles had been completely burned away, leaving only 2-by-4s between the sky and the interior of the lodge. A melted garbage can sat beneath the logs of the wall, which had turned black.

Water cascaded down the roof on the south side of the building facing Bald Mountain’s ski runs. Seven of the windows in the large picture window had blown out, while an A-frame roof top above looked as if the west side had been completely ripped off.

A chimney near the west entrance boasted a gaping black hole through which smoke and occasional flames poured out. And a waterfall fed by firefighters wielding a hose above poured off the roof onto the patio, which was littered with burnt embers, flooding the yard of the nearby Cimino home.

Only the side of the building facing Picabo Street looked relatively intact, even as a three-foot wide swath of water streamed down the street. A rack inside the ski shop held several pair of skis, but it looked as if a lot of the inventory had been removed.

Some of those with lockers in the building still had their skis and other equipment stored there.

One firefighter was operating his department’s new thermal drone, taking pictures of the roof of the lodge to pinpoint hot spots.

“Where the white is is where it’s hot,” he said. “Right now we’re putting water anywhere. But this will help us when it calms down a little because it’ll be able to tell us where the hot spots remain.”

“There is no speculation or suspicion at this point,” said Fitzpatrick. No employees were in the building at the time of the fire.

Ketchum City Councilman Michael David said he saw the flames shooting out of the east side of the building from his home at the base of Warm Springs at about 11:20, prompting him to call 911. He thought the fire was under control at one point only to watch it flare up again.

Clare Swanger said she was awakened by the smell of smoke at her home in Hailey about 20 miles to the south.

“It was so smoky last night,” added Nanci Warren, who lives next door to the lodge, as she peered through the smoky haze that had settled over Ketchum by morning.

She walked up and down her yard, scrutinizing the damage on the east side of the lodge.

“That whole thing burnt out there,” she said, gesturing towards a hole in the roof. “I didn’t realize it was burning at first because I live on the river and didn’t even hear the fire engines. My son was across the street and woke me up.”

Sun Valley Ski Instructor Jerry Mitchell walked around back to examine the picture window said to be  engineered by the late Earl Holding, owner of Sun Valley Resort, after others told him they couldn’t carry out his vision.

“It’s such a beautiful lodge. It’s so sad to see it burn,” he said. “This is my home away from home during winter, as I teach skiing and so I’m here every morning. It’s going to be a process to get rebuilt—I think many of these pieces were manufactured in Montana. “

This was the first fire one of the firefighters had ever been on she said, as she sat on a bench munching on an M&M cookie furnished the firefighters by Sun Valley Company. It was the first for Henry Pollock, a Community School student, as well.

Pollock has been doing a senior project with Blaine County Search and Rescue. And when firefighters were called to the scene, he went, too.

“I was amazed at the speed with which the first responders got here,” he said. “They fought all night, but the flames were so big on the east side. Still, they did everything they could—all you could ask of them.”

Fitzpatrick said he did not know how much it cost to build the elegant Warm Springs Lodge 26 years ago.

Constructed of logs, river rock and glass, it opened at the base of Warm Springs in the fall of 1992. Its elegance turned heads throughout the ski world when it opened.

It replaced the Northface Hut cafeteria on the site of the home owned by the Patterson family, which produced Olympic ski racers Pete and Susie Patterson.

Similar day lodges opened at Seattle Ridge in 1993 and River Run in 1995. Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge opened in 2004.

Warm Springs Lodge was where racers congregated as races were held on Lower Warm Springs, Greyhawk, Hemingway and Cozy runs.

It was known for its potato bar and homemade soups. When chefs rang the bell, skiers flocked to get warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.

Fitzpatrick said company employees would not be allowed on the property until the inspection is complete and the building safe and secure.

“I showed up about 2:30 in the morning and the Ketchum Fire Department did a spectacular job of controlling the situation and making sure everyone was safe,” he added.

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