West Slope fire forces closure of Highway 50
Road used as staging area to combat blaze
By William Ferchland
Tribune staff writer
A fire in Camino started by a homeowner using a weed trimmer closed Highway 50 in both directions Thursday as emergency personnel used the pavement to stage their vehicles to successfully knock down the blaze.
The highway was closed for about three hours as West Slope and California Department of Forestry crews had 90 percent containment of the 42-acre fire shortly before 3 p.m. Full containment was expected by 8 p.m.
“Tankers were actually dropping on Highway 50,” said Terri Mizuhara, fire information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Amador and El Dorado Unit.
The man who operated the weed trimmer, according to Mizuhara, said he was doing the work around 10:30 a.m. in an effort to create defensible space around his home. He was cited for a misdemeanor because fire restrictions do not allow the use of such machinery after 10 a.m.
“He was doing the right thing, just at the wrong time of day and the wrong time of year,” Mizuhara said. “Things are just so dry out there. Luckily (the fire) burned into an old burn area … so there was not a lot of vegetation.”
A California Highway Patrol officer said traffic was diverted along Sly Park to Pleasant Valley Road. El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro was momentarily stopped in traffic.
Solaro, a former chief with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, said about two dozen fire trucks were parked near the shed that contains snowmelt material.
“You can smell the smoke, that’s for sure,” Solaro said, adding he didn’t see much smoke when he passed through the area around 3 p.m.
Jeff Michael, battalion chief for Lake Valley Fire Protection District in Meyers, said there was no request for the district’s services.
“They did not ask for any (engines) or we would have sent them,” Michael said. “They were kind of concerned it would have crossed the highway.”
At one point, the fire threatened several homes and spread within 25 yards of two large propane tanks but there was no evacuation order and no structures burned, Mizuhara said.
The cost of fighting the fire had not been determined Thursday. CDF has the right to bill the man, whose name was not available at press time, for the thousands of dollars it will cost to fight the fire.
“We can bill him for cost of the fire, but at our level we don’t make that decision,” Mizuhara said. “It goes through multiple hands.”
– Tribune staff writer Gregory Crofton contributed to this report.