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Kimber Laux

California wildfire blocks I-15 road to Vegas

20 July 2015

Five houses and 30 vehicles caught fire in a blaze that closed both directions of traffic on Interstate 15 in California‘s San Bernardino County Friday afternoon, according to authorities.

About 8:30 p.m. the San Bernardino National Forest Service announced that two northbound lanes had reopened. The Victorville Daily Press reported that southbound lanes would not reopen until Saturday morning.

The 3,500-acre wildfire, dubbed the North Fire, is being battled by about 1,000 firefighters. It jumped onto the freeway and burned several vehicles, destroying 20 and damaging 10, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Only 5 percent of the fire was contained as of 8:30 p.m. Friday, the forest service said.

Fire crews responded about 3 p.m. Friday to northbound I-15 near Cajon Pass, north of State Route 138, the fire department said. That‘s about 200 miles southwest of Las Vegas.

The fire started between the northbound and southbound sides of I-15 about 2:30 p.m., authorities said. Cars that were at a standstill near Highway 138 on southbound I-15 burned around 3:45 p.m.

A Victorville city councilman was stuck in the fire-related traffic jam and told the Victorville Daily Press that commuters were told to leave their cars and start walking up the pass.

"It's a huge mess," Councilman Ryan McEachron said. "The fire is so much worse and people are hiking northbound. It's unbelievable."

He said cars were turning around and driving north in southbound lanes around 3:40 p.m., but authorities were redirecting southbound traffic through emergency access roads in the pass onto northbound I-15, the Daily Press reported.

Aircraft began dousing the flames around 3:15 p.m.

Firefighters requested five ambulances and five paramedic engines, saying multiple people might be burned. County fire officials said at 5 p.m. that firefighters were going car to car checking for injured motorists, but so far none had been reported, according to the Daily Press.

Despite several cars burning on the freeway, the department warned drivers to stay in their cars because water falling from firefighting planes could "severely injure" pedestrians.

The fire delayed Southern California visitors from making the Friday afternoon drive into Las Vegas for the weekend. Strip resort operators said late Friday it was still too early to determine how the fire would impact visitation.

Las Vegas hotel officials said they would work with guests to accommodate any delays or cancellations.

"We'll be flexible given the circumstances,"? said Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese. The company operates The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino and the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino.

MGM Resorts International operates 10 Strip properties covering 40,700 rooms and suites.

"In emergency situations, we actively monitor developments and work to accommodate our guests, including making allowances for delays and extended stays," said company spokeswoman Mary Hynes.

The North Fire was originally reported on the San Bernardino Fire Department's Twitter account just before 3 p.m. as a 10-acre vegetation fire with a rapid spread rate.

Review-Journal writers Howard Stutz and Ricardo Torres contributed to this story.
California wildfire blocks I-15 road to Vegas is republished from