Highway 50 open to Tahoe travelers after Caldor Fire forced monthlong closure

·2 min read

The final stretch of Highway 50 that had been closed down by the Caldor Fire for the past month reopened to the general public Tuesday morning.

Caltrans lifted the closure between Kyburz and Meyers shortly after 8 a.m.

On Monday morning, Caltrans and El Dorado County sheriff’s officials allowed residents with documentation of residency or homeownership allowed access to closed areas along that stretch, one day ahead of the general public. Commercial vehicles were also allowed through.

“This area is still under an evacuation order and property owners cannot occupy the residences; however this opportunity can be used to examine burned properties, or secure property,” the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Forest Service said in a joint news statement Sunday.

Paul and Bertie Leathers of Woodland took the opportunity to visit their family cabin in the 47-Mile Tract along Highway 50. Nearby homes had burned, but the cabin was untouched.

“It’s a miracle,” said Bertie, 78. “It feels really good, but I hurt for my friends and neighbors.”

Evacuation orders have been reduced to warnings in immediate areas along the Highway 50 corridor, but some mandatory orders remain in place north and south of the highway.

Authorities in a Monday morning briefing encouraged fire crews to take caution on the roadway as traffic flow resumes Tuesday, in case drivers are distracted by sights of wildfire damage along the highway.

Caltrans, fire agencies and law enforcement on Aug. 20 closed a 46-mile stretch of Highway 50 in both directions between Pollock Pines and Meyers in response to the Caldor Fire, which at that time had burned 73,000 acres with 0% containment.

The blaze as of Monday evening was reported at just over 219,000 acres with 76% containment, and most evacuation orders have been reduced to warnings or lifted, including the Pollock Pines and South Lake Tahoe areas.

The highway closure shrunk down to a few miles along with the evacuation changes to allow for repopulation, but until it was fully opened Tuesday, the main travel route between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe had been cut off.

Tahoe-area tourism agencies and South Lake Tahoe city officials declared in statements last week that most of the region is “open for business,” but the highway closure had made that unfeasible for visitors from the Sacramento area.

Visual journalist Paul Kitagaki Jr. contributed.

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