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Highway 1 reopens after Colorado Fire evacuations are lifted in Big Sur

BIG SUR, Calif. (KION) The roadblocks are gone, people are returning home and tourists were stopping by to see the damage from the Colorado Fire for themselves.

Although the fire isn't fully contained, the Highway 1 closure and evacuation orders were lifted Wednesday, allowing people to return home.

But others were not quite ready to go home.

Cal Fire crews were still on scene working hard to contain the fire. Two Cal Fire helicopters were still flying overhead, and another helicopter was working to repair 14 Pacific Gas & Electric power poles that were lost in the fire.

So even though the highway is back open for both locals and tourists — if you decide to check it out, there is still heavy equipment and traffic controls to watch out for.

"There is a lot of activity happening here, so if you come down here, you're going to reach traffic control points and you're going to want to drive really slowly because we don't want any accidents," said Cecile Juliette, Public Information Officer for Cal Fire CZU.

PG&E crews were lifting power poles overhead and into the mountains where power was lost. They said they hope to be finished by Sunday.

The work was too much for one man, who stopped by to check out his house, but said they're going to wait for things to die down before returning home for good.

"And also, remember, this fire is still not 100% contained. There is fire activity still and hot spots," added Juliette. The Colorado Fire was 60% contained as of Wednesday evening.

Cal Fire now says this January wildfire was started by a pile burn that blew into nearby vegetation, spreading and leaving its mark on the Big Sur skyline.

"I think this is the first time it's happened in January that I can ever remember," said Sienna Severson, who lives up Palo Colorado Canyon. "I mean, it's always expected in like late summer, but never in winter."

"And especially because we just got a lot of rain, too. So it seemed like a really good winter and just was so out of the blue," added her sister, Sierra.

Cal Fire is still investigating and won't say whether the pile burn was permitted on Friday before spreading. But even if Smokey Bear says fire danger is low, like it has been the past few days, it doesn't clear the way for backyard burns.

"What we would tell people is to go to their local fire station, the fire station that's the closest to their residence, and find out what the rules are for their property at this time of year before doing anything," said Juliette. "You don't want to be caught in a situation where you could put yourself and others in danger. And the thing is, it might be different for this person, then down the road it's different for this other person. So it just depends on your particular property."

For residents who are returning home, Monterey County still has a boil water notice in place for water systems that may have been impacted by fire damage and power outages.

Tap water should be boiled for at least 1 minute before drinking, until the water supply is determined safe. The county says Cal Am and Brandon Creek Mutual Water Company customers are not affected.

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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