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Firefighters try to contain Cajon Pass fire; I-15 open

September 3, 2011 |  8:08 am

Firefighters on Saturday were trying to contain a 1,200-acre brush fire in the Cajon Pass.

Traffic on Interstate 15, which was closed for parts of Friday due to the fire, was flowing Saturday morning, but officials said more closures are possible depending on smoke and fire conditions. By Friday night, officials said, weather conditions for battling the so-called Hill fire were becoming more favorable, with easing winds and increasing humidity.

Two firefighters were injured battling the blaze, one apparently suffering from heat exhaustion and the other from smoke inhalation, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Fred Pena.

The fire was reported about 12:40 p.m. Friday at the kickoff of the Labor Day holiday, when Southern California's freeways are typically jammed, in particular Interstate 15 as it climbs the Cajon Pass -- the gateway to Las Vegas and the Colorado River. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Photos: Fire in Cajon Pass

The southbound lanes of the 15 were closed for hours, and traffic in the northbound lanes was snarled.

Omar Corona, 21, and David Valdez, 45, stopped on the shoulder of the northbound lanes, desperately checking the GPS device in their Chevy Malibu for a shortcut to Hesperia, where they were supposed to pick up a trailer to haul a car before returning to Los Angeles.

"Oh, man, it's taken us four hours. It feels like we'll never get back," Corona said, shortly before he and Valdez hopped back into their car.

Joe Bell, 29, a graduate student in chemical engineering at Brigham Young University, said he left Provo, Utah, with his wife, Heather, 22, their newborn baby, his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law at 6:30 a.m. for his cousin's wedding in Newport Beach. But when their Dodge Durango hit Hesperia, it ground to a halt in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"We got off in Hesperia, and there were no detour signs. People were going in two different directions, so we just took one of them," Bell said.

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-- Phil Willon and Hector Becerra

Photo: An ambulance travels on Ranchero Road as a wildfire rages near homes in the Cajon Pass community of Oak Hills on Friday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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