Reporting Andrea Menniti
TUOLUMNE COUNTY (CBS13) – Firefighters are getting a good handle on the Rim Fire and now a major road into Yosemite National Park is back open, meaning businesses are getting ready to put things back in place.
Highway 120 reopened Friday afternoon, more than two weeks after flames forced firefighters to close it. Business owners are hoping to get back some of the revenue lost due to the blaze.
Some businesses along Highway 120 have reopened, still others need more time to pick up the pieces.
This is the first time in three weeks that tables at the Buck Meadows restaurant are filled with customers.
“We are very happy to have it open again,” said Joe McGrath, owner of Buck Meadows.
The Rim Fire forced evacuations for the entire community of Buck Meadows.
Flames came close to destroying the restaurant and neighboring resort that sit along the road.
“The firefighters were amazing to stand there with 150-foot flames and protect our property. It’s wonderful,” said McGrath.
Even when evacuations were lifted, Highway 120 remained closed. The popular tourist stop on the way to Yosemite is still tallying its financial loss.
“It’s substantial. Close to a $100,000 we missed Labor Day weekend — our third biggest of the year,” he said.
While some businesses along highway 120 have reopened, down the road, Yosemite Lakes Resort looks like a ghost town.
The manger is picking up the pieces since being forced out by flames. It’s not clear when the campgrounds and last gas station before the Yosemite entrance will reopen.
“We have to clean up the perishables and stuff because when they evacuated us it was like I said, sheriff rolled in a 7:30 at night and said ‘it’s time to go,’ so we locked the doors and left,” said Bill Duke, manager at Yosemite Lakes Resort.
Led by a Yosemite tour bus, drivers gathered as Caltrans removed roadblocks.
“We are definitely looking forward to being able to go this way,” said a driver.
The CHP asks drivers be aware of emergency vehicles. They also ask drivers not to stop along the roadway and take pictures.