A 350-acre brush fire continues to burn in Cajon Pass along the 15 Freeway, jamming freeways through the pass and for miles around.
Caltrans finally opened the 15 in both directions about 5:30 p.m. Monday, with two lanes open in each direction.
The afternoon-long closure also jammed portions of the 210 and 215 freeways. Some San Bernardino Mountain roads were full of motorists attempting to reach the High Desert via an alternate route.
Full containment is expected at 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Forest Service first received reports of the wind-driven blaze at 10:55 a.m. off the northbound 15 north of Kenwood Avenue in Devore, dispatchers said. The fire prompted evacuations in the Matthew's Ranch area, Forest Service officials said.
San Bernardino County firefighters are assisting in fighting the fire, which burned chaparral in steep, rugged terrain mostly east of the highway.
Shortly after 4 p.m., fire officials said the fire was 5 percent contained.
Caltrans waited to open the freeway through the pass for the arrival of more than 700 orange roadway safety cones to provide a safety net around the fire crews.
Officials said 450 firefighters are assigned to the fire, along with 54 fire engines, six water tenders, five bulldozers, 12 hand crews, five air tankers and five helicopters.
The smoke that billowed into the Inland Empire definitely got San Bernardino resident Heather Tafoya's attention.
"To me it looks worse than a normal brush fire," she said of the thick black smoke she saw as she drove toward her daughter's school to make sure she was OK. "It's prettybad."
A group of motorists, who had been diverted off the freeways in the afternoon, waited patiently on Cajon Boulevard while firefighters tackled the blaze.
Randy Meisner was sitting in his car along the side of Cajon waiting for the freeway to reopen so he could get home after work to pick up his children at day care.
"I know the closure is for everyone's safety but I have to get up the hill," he said. "This is keeping me from my children. If someone started this fire they should be ashamed of themselves."
Jeff Hillenburg, a truck driver for Knight Transportation, said he was headed to Apple Valley for a delivery when he was diverted off the freeway and decided to stop at the end of Cajon to wait it out.
"When I saw the smoke, it just looked like dust blowing. Now, it (the fire) looks like it jumped the freeway," Hillenburg said.
Scott McKelvey of San Diego was on the way to Las Vegas when authorities shut down the freeway.
"There's just no way around it," McKelvey said. "I'm just going to have to wait it out."
Fixed-wing aircraft strafed the flames with Phochk retardant trying to extinguish the inferno on either side of the freeway.
"Thankfully the Santa Ana wind conditions were light to moderate," said CalFire spokesman Bill Peters. "We were prepared and ready for the possibility of a fire and got a handle on it quickly."
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