Sacto 9-1-1
July 9, 2013
Update: Kyburz fire 80 percent contained; Highway 50 is open

As traffic moved freely on Highway 50 this morning, fire officials said that they had succeeded in mostly containing the Kyburz fire burning since Monday in the Sierra Nevada.

Traffic began flowing again on Highway 50 through the Sierra late Tuesday after 24 hours of one-way controls due to the wildland fire west of Kyburz.

A fire update released this morning said the blaze, north of the highway in the Eldorado National Forest, was 80 percent contained with 615 acres burned. Firefighters only had 40 percent contained on Tuesday.

Crews are expected today to try to hold and improve the perimeter defense of the fire. Mop-up operations are also expected to begin.

Challenges to the firefighting efforts today could include increasing winds. The blaze is being fought in steep terrain where dead tree "snags" fuel the fire.

Two outbuildings - a shed and an outhouse - were destroyed, but no homes were threatened.

Laura Hierholzer, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, said the Sugarloaf Oregon Music Camp voluntarily evacuated about 100 people on Monday as a precaution. She said operators of other private camps in the area had been checking in with the Forest Service, but evacuations had not been necessary.

The Forest Service reported that campground facilities in the Crystal Basin are open.

Highway 50 travelers bore the brunt of the fire's effects on the public.

Although heavy smoke in the area affected traffic shortly after the blaze broke out, Tuesday's traffic controls through the fire area were primarily to accommodate firefighting equipment, Hierholzer said.

For most of the day, the state Transportation Department reported that one-way alternating controlled traffic was being let through on Highway 50 from about five miles east of Riverton to about two miles west of Kyburz.

Hierholzer said the restrictions also were necessary to let crews check for debris that could fall into the road. Those measures might be reinstated today, she said.

The fire began at 12:41 p.m. Monday about a half-mile east of 29 Mile Post, west of Kyburz.

Hierholzer said weather conditions have been favorable for firefighters, though their efforts have been complicated by steep terrain on the fire's eastern edge.

Although Forest Service officials said the cause remains under investigation, the California Highway Patrol reported that the fire was started by a blown tire on a vehicle.

That stretch of Highway 50 is no stranger to fire-related lane closures. In October 2004, the Fred's fire, which burned 7,700 acres, closed the highway for a week between Pollock Pines and Meyers.

One week ago, a vehicle traveling on Highway 50 was blamed for sparking a fire that forced closure of the freeway in the Cameron Park-Shingle Springs area during the evening commute.

That blaze led the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to urge motorists to make sure their vehicles are properly maintained.

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