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Cajon Pass blaze started in freeway median, authorities say

September 3, 2011 |  1:31 pm

Cajon Pass wildfire
A 1,200-acre brush fire that has destroyed several structures and forced the evacuation of 1,500 residents in the Cajon Pass started in the center median of Interstate 15 and quickly spread south into the area's dry vegetation, a San Bernardino County fire official said Saturday.

Tracey Martinez, San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman, said it was still not clear whether the fire was started by a cigarette, an overheated car or other possible causes.

Photos: Fire in Cajon Pass

She said 900 firefighters deployed to the scene on Saturday had saved hundreds of homes and stopped the blaze from spreading, but hot spots remained. By early Saturday afternoon, the fire, which was first reported at 12:40 p.m. Friday, was 30% contained, officials said.

Two homes and several sheds and storage containers were destroyed, and two other homes were damaged, according to Bob Poole of the U.S. Forest Service. Two firefighters were recovering from injuries; one suffered from heat exhaustion, but second's injury was not fire-related, Poole said.

Officials were hoping to lift a mandatory evacuation order by 2 p.m. Saturday, Martinez said.

"The fire is not spreading currently," she said. “But the winds are erratic, and the potential for it to spread or flare up is still there."

Both northbound and southbound lanes were open on Interstate 15, which was closed by the fire for parts of Friday, but traffic was heavy, a typical Labor Day weekend condition in the Cajon Pass, the gateway to Las Vegas and the Colorado River.

Poole said more freeway closures were not expected.

Photos: Fire in Cajon Pass

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Photo: Smoke billows above a neighborhood in Oak Hills on Friday. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times