Highway set to open
Highway 50 is due to open today at 8 a.m., after a 320-acre wildfire erupted in the El Dorado National Forest Friday evening east of the St. Pauli restaurant.
Fire crews from the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and El Dorado County Fire had full containment on the wildland fire by Sunday. But fire agencies advised the California Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation to keep the road from Pollock Pines to Meyers shut down to traffic because of the hazard to motorists.
Traffic to the South Shore was being diverted to Highway 88, Highway 89 and even the Mormon Emigrant Trail.
Snags and rocks, proving unstable on the steep terrain where the fire burned, tumbled to Highway 50 alongside the American River where the Cleveland Fire raged about eight years ago.
“They’re still getting logs and rocks falling on the highway,” said Don Yasuda, U.S. Forest Service assistant resource officer for the Pacific region.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, while the agencies assessed what crews would stay on to mop up Sunday.
No one was hurt, no evacuations were staged and no structures were lost.
At the height of the fire Friday, the Forest Service’s Cleveland Corral Information Station near the Pony Express Trail was threatened, but the fire carved a path around the site, Yasuda said.
Aerial tankers and helicopters aided 25 engines and 600 personnel — cut in half by Sunday — to quickly attack the blaze that consumed dry grass, brush and timber.
Most of the 6- to 10-foot trees planted since the Cleveland Fire went up in smoke, Yasuda said.
Richard Mitchell of Strawberry Lodge was thankful this weekend’s fire was not more dramatic.
“It’s been a tough summer with the fires,” Mitchell said Sunday, while hosting a large group at the lodge.
Business was saved by timing.
“Fortunately for us, we had a major function planned,” he said, adding the group had already arrived by the time the fire broke out. “If we had not had that event, we would have been dead in the water.”
The Forest Service shared the sentiment.
“We’re lucky we caught this one,” Forest Service regional spokeswoman Kristi Schroeder said.
Schroeder said land managers feel vulnerable to fires this summer because the humidity has been so low.
She said the Forest Service was grateful for mild winds this weekend.
Meanwhile, the haze in South Lake Tahoe skies over the weekend may result from a mix of smoke from the Sky Park area fire as well as blazes in the Sequoia National Forest and Oregon, Forest Service officials reported. Shifting winds brought the smoky haze into Nevada Friday.