California freeway re-opens after fire closes lanes, burns cars

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Saturday, July 18, 2015
Flames burn dry brush next to the 15 Freeway in the Cajon Pass on Friday, July 17, 2015.

CAJON PASS, Calif. -- Evacuations remain in place and structures are still threatened as a fast-moving brush fire in the Cajon Pass near the 15 Freeway is only five percent contained.

All lanes of the northbound 15 Freeway between State Route 138 and Oak Hill Road in the Cajon Pass reopened early Saturday morning after the fire shut it down. Two lanes on the southbound side of the freeway were also opened.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain are expected to hit the area Saturday afternoon, which should help about 680 firefighters battling the blaze.

The brush fire quickly moved through the pass, charring 3,500 acres, burning structures and prompting evacuations on Friday.

Full list of North Fire road closures and evacuations

The fire broke out near the northbound lanes around 2:30 p.m., according to the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze moved quickly and ended up destroying dozens of cars and damaging many others. About 50 to 75 cars were left abandoned on the freeway as firefighters rushed people off the road when the flames got too close.

The fire reached Sage Street in the rural community of Baldy Mesa, causing mandatory evacuations of more than 7,000 people east of Sheep Creek Road, north of State Route 138, west of the 15 Freeway and Highway 395, and south of Phelan Road. Three homes, eight outbuildings and 44 cars were destroyed in the area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

PHOTOS: North Fire erupts next to 15 Freeway in Cajon Pass

An evacuation center has been set up at Serrano High School at 9292 Sheep Creek Road in Phelan. An animal shelter is open at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, located at 14800 7th Street in Victorville.

Five drones temporarily halted firefighting efforts, and officials are asking people to keep drones away from brush fires.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The 15 Freeway is the main route between Southern California and Las Vegas.

VIDEO: Flames engulf big rig on 15 Freeway as North Fire spreads