JACKSON, Wyo. -- A forest fire on the outskirts of the resort area of Jackson Hole burned through 1,000 acres in a day and forced 400 residents to flee as it closed to within a half-mile of expensive mountain homes.
Residents had been warned for days to expect a quick evacuation, but the fire's rapid shift caught many off guard Wednesday.
"Every damn thing I own is in there," said Tom Bloodworth, a cook at the Crescent H guest ranch.
Bloodworth hauled out a trailer with some of the ranch's horses but couldn't go back for anything else. "We had a choice of either the horses or my '89 Subaru, and my '89 Subaru lost," he said.
The Forest Service marshaled about 1,000 firefighters to fight the blaze that has burned some 2,500 acres since it began in a camping area Sunday.
It was only 10 percent contained and no rain is forecast until Saturday. The rugged terrain and fire danger prevented investigators from reaching the ignition point to determine the fire's cause.
No structures have been damaged and no one has been injured, but if the flames reach the homes, crews will have difficulty moving equipment into the subdivisions, which are squeezed into dense stands of pines on steep hills.
"We were coming over the pass and then I saw this huge cloud of red smoke," said Rachel Litchford, who had spent her day off hiking in Idaho but was blocked returning to Crescent H ranch. "We never thought it would happen this quickly."
After the fire slowed its march late in the evening, residents were allowed to return home, with escorts, for one hour to retrieve belongings.
"The roads are still in danger," fire team security manager Bob Carnes said.
The town of Jackson, with the Snake River between it and the fire, was not in threatened, authorities said, but hundreds of homes were. About 150 were vacated as authorities went door-to-door, barking out orders to leave. Some residents were given just a few minutes to grab possessions.
The threatened homes include one owned by celebrity attorney Gerry Spence. His house is one mile from the fire but in the middle of a clearing, and he was prepared to stay.
"It gives you a chance to pause and realize there are things out of your control," he said.
Others with houses in Jackson Hole include Vice President Dick Cheney and film stars Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock, however their homes are not in the immediate fire area.
On the Net:
Fire updates: http://www.tetonfires.com
National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov
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