Cars are shown burning on the Interstate 15 freeway in the Cajon Pass in this frame grab from KNBC video. Courtesy Reuters
Cars are shown burning on the Interstate 15 freeway in the Cajon Pass in this frame grab from KNBC video. Courtesy Reuters

Twenty cars were destroyed and 10 others damaged in a fast-moving brush fire that, for a brief time, closed both sides of the 15 Freeway in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County.

By late Friday, the North Fire has burned more than 3,500 acres and was 5 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Gerrelaine Alcordo said. Four homes were confirmed destroyed and 50 more were threatened in the conflagration, she said.

Interstate 15 has since been reopened but was backed up for miles with weekend traffic heading to Las Vegas.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department reported that 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze.

Residents of Baldy Mesa are being evacuated. An evacuation center has been set up at Serrano High School, 9292 Sheep Creek Road in Phelan. Animals are being evacuated to Victor Valley Fairgrounds, 14800 Seventh St. in Victorville.

Early reports said at least five people were injured in the fire.

The blaze was reported about 2:30 p.m. and had spread to about 50 acres by 3 p.m., according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

  • For real-time reports on lane closures, see the Caltrans quick map. Zoom way into I-15 at the Cajon Junction and click on yellow icon to read updated CHP reports.

A drone flying near the blaze forced crews to abandon air drops, the Los Angeles Times said.

By 4:20 p.m., the fire had burned 500 acres and was spreading rapidly through the chaparral and grass.

Melody Lardner, the spokeswoman, said two southbound lanes of the freeway and one northbound lane were closed.

A Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said he had never seen a situation quite as dramatic as the one unfolding on the main roadway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“Certainly we are looking at this and trying to figure out how we would handle something like this in our own jurisdiction,” said spokesman Brian Humphrey.

Humphrey said in most cases, the safest place to be when a brush fire nears a freeway is inside a vehicle, but each case is different and sometimes abandoning a vehicle and seeking safety is the only choice.

It’s the same decision firefighters face when flames approach them, he said.

When situations like the one in Cajon Pass erupt, cooperation between firefighters and the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies is crucial to keeping people safe, Humphrey said.

He noted that motorists and residents may chafe at road closures when fires erupt, but officials prefer to err on the side of caution.

Staying informed through emergency alerts and news reports is also essential for anyone in the area of fast-moving brush fires, Humphrey said.

As of late afternoon Friday, the Los Angeles Fire Department had not sent any resources to San Bernardino County to assist in the firefight.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department, which was battling a brush fire that scorched 3-5 acres along the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, also has not sent any crews or air units to fight the blaze, a dispatcher said.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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