California Declares State of Emergency As Wildfires Force Evacuations and Road Closuresby Jana Ritter - Published: 8/17/2016
Southern California has been hit with another wildfire that erupted Tuesday in the Cajon Pass and raced in several directions including the canyons east of Los Angeles, the San Bernardino Mountains, the high desert communities on the other side. The fire has also spread to Interstate 15, the main artery to Las Vegas.
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In just one day alone, the blaze burned over 28 square miles destroying dozens of building and homes and forcing 82,000 residents under mandatory evacuations. By Tuesday evening, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. The inferno also shut down routes through the Cajon Pass and Interstate 15 in both directions from Oak Hill Road to Kenwood Avenue, as well as the 15/215 interchange. Truck drivers and motorists were stranded along routes in rows of vehicles sitting under the apocalyptic sky. A video on Instagram showed a cement truck driver trying to escape the blaze by performing the difficult job of driving his vehicle in reverse down the road.
"I pulled over at about 1 o'clock and I said you know what there is no way I am going to get down the hill," truck driver Chris Fleming reported. Many drivers decided to take detours but with all the additional traffic on the smaller highways, the driving time became excruciatingly long. A family traveling from Valencia to Las Vegas said it took them 10 hours just get to Primm – a drive that usually takes between 4 to 5 hours. The fire also stopped a freight train in its tracks and forced the crew to flee the train. The BNSF Railway Company had to halt all train operations through the Cajon Pass until the blaze is contained. As an extreme heat wave and a historic drought continues to help the fire rage, a red-flag fire warning and an air quality alert has been issued for the area.
As of Wednesday, the road closures are as follows:
- Highway 138 has been closed from Interstate 15 to Highway 2
- Old Cajon Boulevard north of Devore Cutoff
- Lytle Creek @ Glen Helen
- Highway 38 to Lone Pine Canyon has been closed.
- 15 Northbound at I-215
- 15 Southbound at Ranchero
California Highway Patrol has recommended these alternate routes:
- From the Valley to the High Desert: Interstate 10E to Highway 62N to Highway 247N to Highway 18W
- From High Desert to the Valley: Highway 18E to highway 247S to Highway 62S to Interstate