A terrifying brush fire swept over the Cajon Pass in California's San Bernardino County on Friday evening, sparking even more billowing vehicle fires as it crawled quickly across the Interstate 15 Freeway. The Los Angeles Times reported that various cars, trucks, and a boat continued to burn for over an hour as firefighters battled the blaze from above, dousing the region with huge buckets of water carried by helicopters. According to authorities, the fire also engulfed a semi-truck, causing it to burst into flame, although the driver was able to make it to safety in time.
Officials indicated that the fire had started at 2:30 p.m. PT, north of Route 138. Local authorities proceeded to shut down all north and southbound lanes on the nearby 15 Freeway out of caution, but fire response teams were halted temporarily mid-battle by drone activity in the region, costing them precious time.
"Firefighting aircraft has been grounded due to drone activity in the area," tweeted the San Bernardino County Fire Department at around 3:30 p.m. PT, posting a photo graphic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture of a fire helicopter and drone which read, "If you fly, we can't: Drones near wildfires are not safe!"
By late afternoon, the flames, which had begun as a small vegetation fire, had spread over an area greater than 2,000 acres, mostly due to swift 40 to 45 mile per hour winds.
"Currently, we have not only a multi-casualty incident, but a large wildfire threatening structures," Fire Department spokesman Josh Wilkins said in a statement Friday. He added that at least 10 vehicles had burned and that it was "not clear how many people were injured."
As news of the fire began to spread, both media on the scene and local residents began taking to the social media sphere to post photos and video of the horrifying blaze, which had triggered towers of black smoke and scenes straight out of a post-apocalyptic film:
By 6 p.m. PT, the fire had spread past the Interstate to reach over 3,500 acres, the Press Enterprise reported late on Friday. According to officials, firefighters had been dispatched to respond to "possible multiple civilian burn victims." As many as 50 homes were in danger of catching fire, and at least five had already been overtaken by the flames.