Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in the fast-moving Blue Cut Fire that has exploded to 18,000 acres and forced more than 82,000 people out of their homes since it broke out Tuesday morning in the Cajon Pass, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 2 acres about 10:55 a.m. near the 15 Freeway and grew to about 1,000 acres in about an hour, according to the incident information page on the fire.
By 6 p.m. the fire jumped to 9,000 acres, according to San Bernardino County Fire Department Battalion Chief Marc Peebles.
Two hours later, Peebles confirmed the fire had burned 15,000 acres.
At 10 p.m., the San Bernardino National Forest tweeted that the fire had reached 18,000 acres.
The blaze is 0 percent contained and mostly heavy brush is burning in the mountainous area.
The whole community of Wrightwood is among the growing list of mandatory evacuations ordered for the blaze.
Wrightwood is in an incorporated area of San Bernardino County near the Mountain High ski resort.
“There is imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures in the Cajon Pass, Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and surrounding areas,” according to the Inciweb page.
An estimated 34,500 homes and 82,640 people have been affected by the evacuation warnings.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials were asking residents to heed evacuation orders for their safety.
About 700 fire personnel from the county fire department, CalFire and the San Bernardino National Forest are on scene. Water and fire retardant drops are being made over the fire.
Six San Bernardino County firefighters were entrapped by flames while battling the fire and two of them suffered minor injuries.
An unknown number of structures have been damaged and destroyed.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for West Cajon Valley from the 2 Freeway to the 15 Freeway as well as Lytle Creek, Lone Pine Canyon, Swarthout Canyon and the community of Baldy Mesa, north of Plelan Road.
Areas north of the 138 Freeway, east of Sheep Creek, south of Phelan Road and west of Caliente were later evacuated, as well as areas north of the 138, east of the 15, south of Ranchero, west of Summit Valley and all of Summit Valley to the 173.
Evacuation centers have been set up at the Jessie Turner Community Center in Fontana, 15556 Summit Ave., and Sultana High School in Hesperia, 17311 Sultana St.
The 138 Freeway is closed from the 2 Freeway to Summit Valley Road, and to Lone Pine Canyon, officials said.
The 15 Freeway is closed in both directions from the 215 Freeway to Oak Hill Road and Old Cajon Road is closed from from Cleghorn Road to Kenwood Road.
About 5:15 p.m. the blaze was threatening a McDonalds and later partially burned the roof of the restaurant off the 15 Freeway. Several firefighters and trucks were seen protecting the structure as smoke surrounded the area and a helicopter later dropped fire retardant on it. A gas station and weigh station were also threatened and burned in the vicinity.
A smoke advisory was issued for San Bernardino County through Wednesday morning, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Portions of the northwest and central San Bernardino Valley near Devore and portions of the central and west San Bernardino Mountains are directly affected by the unhealthy air quality created by the fire.
Residents with small animals can take their pets to the Devore Animal Shelter in San Bernardino at 19777 Shelter Valley or the Apple Valley Animal Shelter at 22131 Powhatan Rd. Those with large animals can take them to the Victorville Fair Grounds at 14800 7th Ave.
Aerial video from Sky5 showed flames near a highway in the area as dark smoke rose above the fire. Flames were also burning close to railroad tracks in the Cajon Pass.
Several structures appeared to be burning along Swarthout Canyon Road, Sky5 footage showed.
A red flag warning was in effect in the fire area Tuesday, with a high of near 100 degrees and south winds bringing gusts as high as 30 mph forecast, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’re seeing very aggressive fire behavior, burning through the brush,” said Bob Poole, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. “This is difficult to get in front of this and try to corral it.”
He explained that the weather conditions were a bad combination of high winds, high temperatures and low humidity as we are in the fifth year of an ongoing drought. The Blue Cut fire is exhibiting similar behavior to the recent Pilot Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains, Poole said.
“It looks like it’s going to be a long night right now,” he said.
Several schools are expected to be closed Wednesday because of the fire and the poor air quality.
All schools in the Snowline, Hesperia Unified, Silver Valley, Apple Valley and Oro Grande school districts will be closed, officials said.
Firefighters are currently battling three other major blazes in California. The Clayton Fire near Clear Lake has burned 4,000 acres and 175 structures and is 35 percent contained, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County has burned 6,400 acres and destroyed 40 structures and is 20 percent contained, according to the Times.
The Soberanes Fire in Monterey County has burned 76,000 acres, destroyed 68 buildings and is 60 percent contained.
KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this story.