California’s Blue Cut Fire continues to blaze and devastate
California firefighters are pulling close to 48 hour days trying to stamp out the relentless blaze that began Tuesday morning near Old Cajon Blvd.
Triple-digit heat, a five-year drought and natural landscape conspired to turn this forest fire into a highly dangerous and far reaching problem. The so-called Blue Cut Fire has now blackened over 30,000 acres and, as of Thursday morning, is only 4% contained.
The funnel shape of Cajon Pass sent winds up to 30mph and pushed the flames onto Interstate 15, causing officials to shut the road down. Residents of the area were met with a closed interstate and highway 138 and congestion onto Summit Valley Road, which leads to the nearby town of Hesperia. According to the California Highway Patrol, the northbound lanes of I-65 reopened late Wednesday night.
The small mountain town of Lytle Creek was evacuated along with other communities along the wildfires southern flank. An estimated 80,000 people have now been forced to leave their homes behind, not knowing what they will come back to.
Melody Lardner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, told the LA Times that more than 1,5o0 firefighters were attacking the Blue Cut Fire “with everything they can from the air and the ground.” The Times also reported that structure-protecting engines had been placed in Lytle and the ski resort town of Wrightwood, population 4,525, to prevent further damage to homes and buildings.
Among the charred ruins and destruction, Summit Inn diner along the historic Route 66, once frequented by Elvis Presley, became a skeleton left in the wake of the Blue Cut Fire.
Reporters on the ground have described scenes of complete isolation. Abandoned cars, homes and even cargo trains frozen in time as everyone races to Hesperia, hoping to outrun the inferno.
Chon Bribiescas, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, told the LA Times that assessment teams and cadaver dogs would be sent to homes and structures along Highway 138 to search for anyone who may have been left behind.
California has been choked with black smoke many times this year already, losing hundreds of homes and eight lives. It’s been 13 years since fire has raged in the Cajon Pass area.