Kyburz, Berryessa fires still burning as highways start to reopen

Fires continued to burn Friday to the east and west of Sacramento, but the traffic situation for motorists headed to recreation areas for the weekend was expected to ease a bit with at least partial reopening of highways in the fire areas.

To the east, in El Dorado County, Highway 50 reopened at 5:30 p.m. Officials said traffic would be metered at Sly Park Road in Pollock Pines and at Meyers, and escorted through the fire area.

To the west, in the Lake Berryessa area, the California Department of Transportation announced shortly after 5 p.m. that Highway 128 had reopened. The highway was briefly opened about noon Friday, then closed again due to spot fires.

The Kyburz fire in the Eldorado National Forest was burning in timber mostly along the north side of the American River. Officials said Friday the fire near Kyburz was 30 percent contained with 200 acres burned.

The Wragg fire has burned 6,900 acres in Napa and Solano counties and was 30 percent contained. The fire was burning in brush-covered, rugged terrain near Lake Berryessa.

The Highway 50 closure for the Kyburz fire complicated travel Friday for people headed to the Lake Tahoe area. Duane Wallace, incoming president of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, said he had traveled Highway 88 from South Lake Tahoe to reach Placerville on Friday, and discovered to his dismay that Caltrans was doing roadwork on the highway near Caples Lake, causing lengthy backups with the detour traffic. Wallace said he contacted Caltrans and they agreed to halt the work.

Steve Nelson, a spokesman for Caltrans District 3, said Highway 50 is in District 3 and Highway 88 is in District 10, where officials had not anticipated the increased traffic from the detour. Nelson said it took some time to communicate with the contractor and clear equipment from the roadway.

Wallace said South Lake Tahoe businesses and visitors likely would be affected by the fire, detours and travel delays. Although no major events are taking place there this weekend, the annual Jeepers Jamboree is underway on the Rubicon Trail, which runs from the Georgetown area to the Lake Tahoe area. Many of the participants visit South Lake Tahoe before or after the event, but fewer may do so this year due to the fire, he said. It would have been worse had Highway 50 been closed last weekend, during the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in South Lake Tahoe, Wallace said.

The cause of each fire was under investigation. However, early speculation centered on vehicles sparking the flames: a fiery car crash in the Wragg fire and a broken-down vehicle in the Kyburz fire.

As of Friday evening, evacuations in the Kyburz fire area had been downgraded to voluntary.

The Kyburz fire, first reported about 2 p.m. Thursday, is burning in a steep canyon area of the Eldorado National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It was reported on both sides of Highway 50. The fire was burning toward the scar created by the 2013 Kyburz fire.

The Wragg fire, which started about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday near the southeast corner of Lake Berryessa, had destroyed an outbuilding and a tent trailer. Evacuations remained in place for the Quail Ridge community.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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