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Cajon Pass fire evacuations lifted; full containment expected soon

September 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Evacuation orders on 1,500 homes were lifted Saturday as firefighters made progress on a major wildfire that broke out in the Cajon Pass, but officials warn the danger is not over yet.

As winds died down Friday night, evacuation orders were lifted for people who live in the area west of Caliente Road, east of Baldy Mesa Road, south of Joshua Street, to the top of the Cajon Pass in Oak Hills and Jenny Street between Columbine Road and Braceo Street in Hesperia.

Those who live south of Mesquite Street, east of Baldy Mesa Avenue, west of Oak Hills Road and north of Cajon Pass on the I-15 were also able to return home.

Officials said the "Hill Fire" has scorched 1,158 acres with 60 percent containment as of Saturday afternoon. Officials said full containment was expected by Sunday evening.

Although no flames were visible Saturday, firefighters said the danger is far from over as they expect winds to pick up and temperatures to rise during the day.

The fire started Friday afternoon in the Cajon Pass and jumped Interstate 15. The flames were fanned by 15-mph winds and temperatures around 90 degrees.

It didn't take long for the blaze to burn through the Chaparral area and nearby hills in the Oak Hills community and threaten homes. Two homes were damaged, and at least two other unknown structures were destroyed.

Water-dropping helicopters and air-tankers including the DC-10 were called in to attack the fire. Some 900 firefighters were working to beat the fire, officials said.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The flames came dangerously close to several homes. Some residents grabbed garden hoses and began spraying down the flames to beat them back.

San Bernardino Fire Battalion Chief Marc Peebles said the plan is to build stronger containment lines and keep a vigilant eye on possible hot spots.

A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, 14800 Seventh St., Victorville, 92395. Large animals may also be taken to the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds.

Residents in need of assistance evacuating animals can call San Bernardino County Animal Control (800) 472-5609.

Area residents can contact the United States Forest Service Public Information Line (909) 383-5688.

I-15 is open in both directions but closures may occur periodically due to smoke.

Authorities say a firefighter was injured, but the extent of the injuries was unknown. He was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center in unknown condition.

Some drivers were overcome by smoke inhalation while driving through the smoke. They were taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Interstate 15 is a major route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Some animals die, some survive Cajon Pass fire

San Bernardino County Animal Control officials confirmed that several animals at one ranch died in the fire.

They say the majority of them were dogs, but there were some larger animals that died as well.

Many, however, were saved thanks to the quick work of firefighters.

"There's a 2,000-pound bull that did survive and several donkeys, some llamas, several dogs, they had a lot of rabbits, various types of animals," San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said.

The owner was trying to figure out which animals were lost and which ones were still roaming.

Animal control says the owner was a breeder and also boarded animals at the ranch.

Smoke advisories

The brush fire prompted air quality officials to issue a smoke advisory for the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain areas.

Even if you can't see any smoke, it's still a good idea to avoid any vigorous outdoor activities.

It's especially important that people with respiratory or heart disease stay indoors, along with the elderly and children.

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