Officials lifted evacuation orders for 1,500 homes Saturday as firefighters gained the upper hand on a fast-moving wildfire that erupted in dry grass along the main interstate between Southern California and Las Vegas
All remaining evacuation orders were lifted Saturday afternoon, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller. Some 1,500 homes were evacuated after the blaze broke out Friday on the center divider of Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass.
The fire quickly grew to over 1,100 acres, or nearly 2 square miles, jumping the freeway and burning chaparral in rolling hills that form the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and rural areas of San Bernardino County.
Nearly 750 firefighters surrounded 60 percent of the blaze, Miller said. There were no open flames and very little smoke. Full containment was expected Sunday evening and crews were expected to remain for several days to clean up and keep watch for flare-ups.
Miller gave credit to homeowners who followed wildfire preparation procedures and cleared the areas around their properties.
"When residents do their clearance ahead of time, it gives crews a safe place to work when fire breaks out," he said. "They're able to work that much faster."
Flames destroyed two mobile homes and damaged two other structures. A firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and another suffered a medical-related injury, Miller said.
The fire was fueled by winds up to 15 mph and 90 degree temperatures.
An evacuation was ordered Friday afternoon 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 Friday evening, authorities determined it was safe for those who live on the north and west side of the fire to come back.
Victorville resident Tom Woods told KCAL-TV the Oak Hills area contains hundreds of recently built luxury horse properties spread over the hills, some of which were worth $1 million.
The fire initially closed all freeway lanes, snarling traffic as drivers struggled to start their Labor Day weekend getaways. Nearly all northbound and southbound lanes were reopened by Friday evening.
More than a dozen aircraft, including a DC-10 jumbo jet tanker, were called in to help fight the flames.
Air quality officials predicted that smoke from the fire would cause problems for people with health sensitivities in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain areas. The South Coast Air Quality Management District urged them to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.