PACHECO PASS -- Firefighters battled a vegetation fire all of Friday that burned along both sides of Highway 152 east of Casa de Fruta, resulting in long traffic delays to kick off the Labor Day weekend.

The fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon, was 65 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Friday. The area burned had held steady throughout the day at about 80 acres, according to Cal Fire Capt. Denise Ehnat. At least 45 firefighters were scheduled to remain on the scene overnight, and full containment was not expected for at least another day or two, Ehnat said.

The fire caused traffic in both directions to temporarily share one lane. Friday morning, there was just one lane open in each direction, according to CHP Officer Herb Kellogg. By 11:30 a.m. all westbound lanes opened, and eastbound lanes opened by 2 p.m.

But early Friday afternoon, it was slow going on 152, according to commuters who contacted the Mercury News.

The fire started after a Honda Civic crashed into an embankment while traveling westbound along the highway, according to the California Highway Patrol. The crash sparked nearby vegetation.

It is unknown if anyone was injured in the crash. Officers also do not know what caused the driver to crash.

Fire crews relied on helicopters on Thursday in an effort to contain the blaze. There were no plans to use air support on Friday as an estimated 75 firefighters initially worked to establish control lines and get the blaze contained. Late in the day Friday, some crew members were sent home.


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On Thursday afternoon, Redwood City resident Chris Mulford said he was heading to Los Angeles when he saw traffic slow to a crawl along Highway 152.

Mulford said a helicopter was dropping water onto the fast-spreading fire, which was moving quickly uphill as crews worked to gain a foothold on the flames.

He added about 100 cars were stopped just below where the fire was spreading, and that he was unsure if CHP officers were going to turn the cars around or if the drivers would be stuck while firefighters worked.

"I was basically driving through smoke and ash," he said. "The flames looked like they were 10 feet, 12 feet high in some places."

Staff writers Katie Nelson and Karen de Sá contributed to this report. Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him at Twitter.com/markmgomez.