At first, a small patch of flame sparked up next to Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass earlier Tuesday. But now that flame has become an unmanageable inferno that has scorched 15,000 acres of the San Bernardino Mountains. By nightfall, it had elevated over ridges and was making a fiery descent into the Mojave Desert.
At least a dozen buildings have been burned down, including the iconic Summit Inn, a historic diner near Interstate 15. Around 82,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes, and more are expected to be displaced the next few days as the fast-moving wildfire explodes across the drought-parched landscapes.
“The smoke is on the desert floor,” said Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. “I can confirm that we’ve lost structures, both residential and commercial. I’m looking up here and I’m seeing buses, I’m seeing outbuildings, I’m seeing houses… This fire is burning in significantly different terrains at multiple elevation levels.”
Gov. Jerry Brown quickly declared a state of emergency in the fire area, freeing up special resources and funds for the firefight and recovery.
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