500-acre fire in California prompts evacuations, shuts down 15 freeway, burns cars in Cajon Pass

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-17 19:59:37-04

By Melissa Pamer

San Bernardino, California (KTLA) -- The 15 Freeway was shut down in the Cajon Pass Friday afternoon as a wildfire burned rapidly through the area, prompting mandatory evacuations and burning several vehicles stopped on the interstate.

The closure of all southbound and northbound lanes came about 3 p.m., when the North Fire had spread to about 30 acres, according to tweets from the San Bernardino National Forest's Twitter account.

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It was at 500 acres about 3:45 p.m., and firefighting aircraft were temporarily grounded due to drone activity, the San Bernardino County Fire Department stated on Twitter.

Several vehicles stopped on the freeway were burning, aerial video from Sky5 showed. It was not clear if anyone was injured, and firefighters arrived on the tarmac just before 4 p.m.

Ten fire engines were being sent to Phelan for potential structure protection, the Fire Department stated.

Mandatory evacuations were for Baldy Creek area east of Sheep Creek Road, north and west of the 15 Freeway, and south of Phelan Road.

The blaze began as a vegetation fire and was spread toward the Oak Hills area by 40 to 45 mph winds, according to Josh Wilkins with the county Fire Department.

It was not clear how many people were injured, the the fire was being considered a "multi-casualty incident," Wilkins said.

Caltrans District 8 said the fire was burning in the median just north of State Route 138. Lanes were closed at Oak Hill Road, according to Caltrans.

Firefighters first responded to the report of a vehicle fire on northbound Interstate 15 between State Route 138 and Oak Hills exits, the National Forest stated.

The fire spread rapidly in medium-to-heavy fuels.

The freeway is the main route from the Los Angeles basin to Las Vegas and is heavily traveled at Friday rush hour.