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Officials Say Wildfire in Cajon Pass Is Nearly Out

June 29, 2002|HECTOR BECERRA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A wildfire that burned more than 6,200 acres and razed three homes and two outbuildings in the Cajon Pass was 80% surrounded Friday and the prospects for getting it under control were quickly improving, fire officials said.

The fire could be surrounded by 6 p.m. today, said Carol Beckley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. She said it was too early to tell when the fire would be completely put out.

"Currently, the fire is pretty inactive, except for a few hot spots," Beckley said. The fire, which at one point Wednesday threatened motorists on Interstate 15 and halted rail traffic, boasted few visible flames Friday, she said.

Although I-15 had been reopened since Thursday, a portion of California 138 remained shut down, Beckley said. However, the flames no longer threatened communities such as nearby Wrightwood, she said. And residents from sparsely populated Swarthout and Lone Pine canyons were being allowed to return to about 100 homes.

The blaze was apparently started by a roadside car fire Wednesday afternoon on the shoulder of I-15. The flames damaged major power lines, temporarily cutting off electricity to about 450,000 customers in San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.

At one point, trucks and cars were stranded on I-15--the major artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas--as flames roared near the freeway. Some of the vehicles made U-turns and drove away to escape the fire.

The Forest Service used more than 1,400 firefighters, 196 fire engines, six bulldozers, eight air tankers and 10 water-dropping helicopters to battle the fire. There were no reported injuries.

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