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Wildfire closes Calif. interstate

Sat., Sept. 3, 2011

HESPERIA, Calif. – A fast-moving wildfire erupted Friday on the main interstate between Southern California and Las Vegas, forcing evacuations of 1,500 homes and temporarily closing the freeway to holiday weekend traffic before firefighters beat back the flames.

The fire began at around 1 p.m. on the center divider of Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass. It grew to 1,100 acres, or nearly 2 square miles within hours, jumping the freeway and burning chaparral in rolling hills that form the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County.

The fire was fueled by winds moving up to 15 mph and 90 degree temperatures, but by dusk cooler weather and calmer winds helped 750 firefighters surround 20 percent of the blaze, U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller said.

“The fire laid down pretty good, firefighters have made very good progress,” Miller said.

The fire destroyed two mobile homes and damaged two other structures. A firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and another suffered a medical-related injury, he said.

An evacuation was ordered as the fire moved northwest toward large ranch homes in the Oak Hills area. Fire crews were placed to defend the houses as the flames came within yards of some of them.

By evening, authorities lifted the evacuation order for half of the 1,500 homes after determining it was safe for those who live on the north and west side of the fire to come back.


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