Environment & Science

California wildfire update: Rain calms fire that jumped freeway, burned cars

The southbound lanes of the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas stand empty during the North Fire which caused people to abandon their vehicles and flee as flames jumped the 215 freeway on July 17, 2015 near Victorville, California.
The southbound lanes of the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas stand empty during the North Fire which caused people to abandon their vehicles and flee as flames jumped the 215 freeway on July 17, 2015 near Victorville, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

A rare summer storm allowed firefighters to contain most of a wildfire that swept across a California interstate, torching vehicles and sending people running for their lives.

Light rain and moist air dampened the blaze in the mountainous Cajon Pass 55 miles northeast ofLos Angeles, the main artery between Southern California and Las Vegas.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyers told KPCC the fire destroyed 7 homes and 16 outbuildings, along with at least 44 vehicles. Conditions have improved considerably, he said. 

"There's some smoldering, there's probably no actual active growth going on right now. we had light rain off and on yesterday, kind of a drizzle most of the day." Beyers said. "The plan is going be just to cont to hold and improve the existing fire lines and cont to get containment and extinguish those remaining hot spots."

The wind-driven fire was sparked Friday afternoon below the elevated lanes of Interstate 15. The flames destroyed 20 vehicles on the freeway before heading into the neighboring community of Baldy Mesa.

California Highway Patrol officials said they're looking into allegations that local towing companies took advantage of the situation, charging exorbitant fees to those forced to abandon their cars on the highway, the San Bernardino Sun reported

Another wildfire that broke out Friday night in the San Gabriel Mountains and forced the evacuation of 300 campers in nearby Wrightwood was 35 percent contained Sunday morning after burning about 200 acres.

"The terrain is very rough and steep, very rugged," US Forest Service spokeswoman L'Tanga Watson told KPCC. "And it's around a ski area so of course in ski areas you have beautiful pine trees, nice pine setting -- well some of the thickest timber stands are on the forest."

You can follow both fires using KPCC's Fire Tracker tool below: 

Fire: North Fire

Fire: Pines Fire