Thursday May 22 2008
Fire burns 70 acres in Cool
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
COOL — A 70-acre woodland fire that broke out early Thursday afternoon roughly one mile north of Cool left power lines down and traffic stopped for hours in both directions on Highway 49. The fire, which broke out at approximately 11:30 a.m., was reportedly caused by a down power line but the direct cause is still under investigation, Cal Fire officials said. Roughly 3,000 residents were without power for hours as a result of the fire before it was restored at approximately 3:45 p.m., said Jennifer Ramp, spokewoman for the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. No structures were threatened by the blaze, which was burning on the west side of Highway 49 in oak and woodlands, said Tobie Edmonds, spokesman for Cal Fire. “It’s all wind driven at this point,” said Capt. Gary Baldock of the El Dorado County Fire Depart-ment before the fire was contained. “If it weren’t for the high winds, this would be nothing. If the wind quits, the fire is going to die soon.” By 4 p.m., fire crews were conducting mop-up work. Cal Fire officials estimate winds topped 20 mph at the top of the ridge where the fire was burning. Motorists heading to Cool from Auburn were stopped at Lincoln Way and Highway 49 and those traveling north on Highway 49 from Cool were stopped at Highway 193. Traffic in the canyon was being turned around on Highway 49 at the Cool quarry. The roads were opened just before 5 p.m., said Kelly Baraga, spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol. Pilot Hill resident Chuck Laugher was one of a handful of residents who got stuck on Highway 49 down the canyon roughly one mile from Cool. “When the wind blows this stuff just happens,” said Laugher, a retired Cal Fire firefighter. “I know the boys are doing all they can do so we will just have to roll with it and wait it out.” Twenty-nine fire resources responded to the fire including Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, and the El Dorado County, Georgetown and Pilot Hill fire departments. Two air tankers, one helicopter, 10 engines, two water tenders and four hand crews contained the blaze. The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.