Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

82,600 Residents Return: Blue Cut Fire in Cajon Pass

Massive, sudden fire consumes 37,000 acres near Banning Pass

 

August 20, 2016

Due to the rapid growth and spread of the fire, fire officials ordered mandatory evacuations for over 82,000 residents in surrounding communities, including Wrightwood.

Update Saturday afternoon: The blue cut fire has consumed 37,000 acres and is 68% contained. 318 structures have been lost to the fire, including about 100 homes. Some residents are being allowed to return in Wrightwood and other areas.

The Bluecut Fire tripled in size last night as we slept. Fed by breezes that blow through the banning pass, it is a thing of wonder and terror that, like a fire breathing dragon, forces entire populations to flee in its path.

It is difficult to understate the power of the wildfire currently burning in the Cajon Pass, northeastern San Gabriel Mountains, and Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California. The Blue Cut fire was first reported at 10:36 AM just west of Interstate 15. As of 17 August 2016 the fire has burned 30,000 acres of land. A red flag warning was in effect in the area of the fire with temperatures near 100 °F as well as winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour.

The Blue Cut Fire remains 0 percent contained Wednesday afternoon, and mostly heavy brush is burning in a mountainous area, making it more difficult for firefighters.

The exact number of structures destroyed is not known, but authorities warn it will be large. A 150 year old house was lost to the fire.

Two firefighters were transported to the hospital Wednesday morning after becoming trapped while protecting homes in Swarthout Canyon.

In a news conference Wednesday, the incident commander Michael Wakoski explained the force behind the fire. "Cajon Pass acts as a natural wind tunnel, creating a funnel that can increase wind speeds by 20–30 miles per hour. These winds were causing the fire to spot upwards of a half mile ahead of itself."

The entire town of Wrightwood is among the growing list of mandatory evacuations ordered for the blaze, which also includes Phelan and Banning. Wrightwood is in an incorporated area of San Bernardino County near the Mountain High ski resort.

"There is imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures in the Cajon Pass, Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and surrounding areas," according to the Inciweb page.

The Summit Inn, a historic U.S. Route 66 roadside diner built in 1952, was destroyed by the fire along with the McDonalds and multiple gas stations in the Cajon Pass. Reports also that the Cajon Pass Truck scales have also been destroyed.

Shortly after the fire broke out, evacuations began to be ordered for the nearby communities of West Cajon Valley, Lytle Creek, Lone Pine Canyon and Swarthout Canyon. By 3:00 on August 16, less than 6 hours after the fire started, it had spread to over 5,500 acres (2,200 ha) forcing additional mandatory evacuation orders for most of Oak Hills, Phelan and Summit Valley.

12 hours later, it had burned 15,000 acres then 2 hours after that, 18,000 acres. With zero containment. 82,000 people are under mandatory evacuation.

Due to the rapid growth and spread of the fire, fire officials ordered mandatory evacuations for over 82,000 residents in surrounding communities, including Wrightwood. The Summit Inn, a historic U.S. Route 66 roadside diner built in 1952, was destroyed by the fire along with the McDonalds and multiple gas stations in the Cajon Pass. Reports also that the Cajon Pass Truck scales have also been destroyed.

 

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