3,500-acre wildfire closes 15 Freeway in Cajon Pass

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The North Fire burning near the Cajon Pass and Baldy Mesa areas stood at 3,500 acres and with 5 percent containment Saturday after burning multiple homes and at least 44 vehicles, and forcing evacuations and the closure of the 15 Freeway the previous day, fire officials said.

The blaze was first reported around 2:30 p.m. Friday near the 15 Freeway, north of Highway 138, according to the multi-agency federal wildfire website Inciweb, KTLA reported.

The fire grew to 3,500 acres by 6 p.m. Friday. It remained the same size and with 5 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

The growth of the blaze had slowed overnight, Cal Fire’s Capt. Liz Brown said.

“The fire did lay down, so that was absolutely in our favor,” Brown said. “However, the fire burned a very wide area so there’s a lot of mop-up to be done. A lot of these homes have debris piles so we have to make sure those are all contained.”

The drought and heat were a factor in the firefight, she added.

“One thing that we still have to let everyone know is with this drought and the fuel, we’re not over. Just because the fire is laid down, there’s still smoke, still a lot of threat and wind changes everything, so we’re taking this very slow, and very cautiously that everyone is safe,” Brown said.

Three homes and eight outbuildings, including sheds and barns, burned as a result of the fire, according to the San Bernardino National Forest.

Dramatic video captured several vehicles on the 15 Freeway erupt in flames as heavy smoke approached and flames jumped the southbound lanes Friday.

Officials said Friday some 20 vehicles were destroyed on the roadway and 10 were damaged, but the forest service tweeted Saturday that 44 vehicles had been destroyed. 

Two big rigs were among those destroyed and an additional two were damaged, Inciweb reported Friday.

Sky5 aerial footage also showed a boat and a car-carrier truck burning.

All north and southbound lanes on the 15 Freeway were temporarily closed as a result of the blaze Friday.

Two lanes on the northbound side were reopened early Friday evening and two southbound lanes were reopened around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Additional structures were not believed to be threatened as of Saturday morning, but mandatory evacuations remained in place as fire officials worked to restore power and secure lines, Brown said.

Evacuations remained for those living east of Sheep Canyon Road, north of Highway 138, West of Highway 395 and the 15 Freeway and south of Phelan Road, according to Inciweb.

Those being evacuated could seek shelter as Serrano High School, at 9292 Sheep Creek Road in Phelan.

Animals were being sheltered at San Bernardino County Fairgrounds located at 14800 Seventh St. in Victorville.

Evacuees were sharing shelter with people evacuated from campgrounds near the 125-acre Pine Fire near Wrightwood and Big Pines, which broke out Friday night.

Some of the 1,000 firefighters who responded to the North Fire had been relocated to the Pine Fire, Brown said.

In addition to firefighters on the ground, 22 engines, four water tenders, one dozer, one air attack plane, one lead plane, three helicopters and six fixed-wing tankers, including DC10 and MD 87, were aiding in the firefight against the 3,500-acre blaze.

San Bernardino County Fire, Cal Fire and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials were all at the scene.

Increased moisture was expected Saturday, but with the “threat of lightning and gusty outflow winds,” Inciweb stated.

Read the full story on KTLA.com.

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