A brush fire charred hundreds of acres Monday morning in the Cajon Pass, causing major traffic trouble. By 5 p.m., firefighters were beginning to get a handle on the flames and previously shutdown lanes were slowly reopening. Craig Fiegener reports from Devore for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2012.
A quick-burning wildfire in the Cajon Pass on Monday prompted the hours-long closure of two major freeways, including the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The 15 and 215 freeways reopened after being shut down while crews responded the blaze, which began at about 11 a.m. on a hot and dry day, burning more than 350 acres in two hours.
Mandatory evacuations were in place for residents of Mathews Ranch, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Devore Fire was reported next to the 15 Freeway near the Kenwood Avenue exit (map).
Burning in steep and rugged terrain, the fire was at 50 acres by noon, but quickly grew to more than 350 acres, the service said.
Smoke from the fire was visible from as far away as Murrieta, more than 50 miles distant.
By 6 p.m., the fire was about 375 acres and just 5 percent contained. Some 450 firefighters were battling the blaze, according to Bill Peters, a spokesman for Cal Fire.
Total containment was expected at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the incident information page.
The northbound 15 Freeway reopened at about 4:45 p.m. after being closed at its interchange with the 215 Freeway. Connectors to the 15 Freeway from the 210 Freeway had also reopened.
The southbound side of the 15 Freeway, which had been closed at Highway 138, reopened just after 5 p.m.
Old Route 66 had been closed between Kenwood and Cleghorn.
Many drivers had been stranded in the area, which has few services, for hours.
The fire started on the east side of the 15 Freeway, but jumped to the west side Monday afternoon and burned toward the Lytle Creek area.
"We have aircraft, helicopters and air tankers and numerous hand crews," said Carol Underhill, of U.S. Forest Service. "We're attacking this fire from all directions.
"There are some winds in the area."
Three homes were evacuated near the freeway, said Miller. The homes in the Mathews Ranch area also were evacuated during the 2011 Kenwood Fire, which burned in the same area.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire.
Red Flag Warnings for Mountain Areas
A red flag warning, indicating high fire danger, is in effect Monday for the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties as the week begins with strong winds, low humidity and above-normal temperatures before the possibility of snow in the mountains by Friday.
Weather Page: Maps, Extended Forecast
The warning went into effect Sunday night. It will remain in effect until 4 p.m. in the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountain ranges, the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County and the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County.
Wind gusts up to 40 mph are expected in the affected areas. Humidity levels will be between 6 and 12 percent with temperatures in the 90s.
"We could have record-breaking heat later today," said NBC4 forecaster Elita Loresca. "We will see more cooling by the middle of the week. It is going to shift from very warm, dry conditions to very winter-like conditions by the middle of the week."
A sharp cooling trend is expected later this week, beginning Tuesday with temperatures in the mid-80s in downtown Los Angeles. Downtown LA temperatures will dip again Wednesday into the high-70s before falling into the mid-60s later this week.
Rain is possible Thursday night and into Saturday morning. Snow levels might drop to 3,000 feet Friday night.
Temperature drop-offs are expected throughout Southern California.
"Not only cooler temperatures, downright chilly," said Loresca.
View Cajon Pass fire in a larger map