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Cajon Pass brush fire grows to 350+ acres; Interstate 15 reopens

November 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A fast-moving brush fire in the Cajon Pass forced the evacuation of several homes and shut down Interstate 15 for about six hours on Monday.

The so-called Devore Fire, which was reported just before 11 a.m., quickly grew to more than 350 acres and burned on both sides of Interstate 15. It's about 5 percent contained, with full containment expected by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

As firefighting aircraft made drop after drop, firefighters on the ground made an incredible stand, just north of Kenwood Avenue. Strong winds pushed the fire to the south, and firefighters were desperate to stop the fire before it could race down the Cajon Pass toward the community of Devore. Between 20 to 30 residents in the Mathews Ranch area were evacuated.

"I heard an airplane going over the house ... They were on it quick," said Wayne Bruce of Devore.

Bruce said even though none of the homes in his area were technically threatened, the fire did have their undivided attention.

More than 450 fire personnel, along with at least 10 aircraft, battled the flames in hot, dry weather. As firefighters worked quickly to knock the fire down, they needed both sides of Interstate 15 to deploy their equipment, which meant an incredible backup of traffic for anyone trying to get up or down the Cajon Pass. Drivers like Nathan McNabb of San Bernardino could only watch as they waited for the road to reopen.

"It looks like it's going to be over, and then, all of a sudden, another fire will flare up, and that means I can't get home," he said.

But besides water drops from helitankers and turboprop aircraft, fire authorities also deployed a Tanker 41, the future of firefighting from the air. It's a jet plane that is much smaller than a DC-10 that can fly at incredible speeds at really low altitudes.

Interstate 15 was shut down for several hours, but Caltrans was able to reopen lanes by 5 p.m. The 215 North also reopened after being closed at the Palm/Kendall exit. BNSF stopped trains in the area.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.


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