Blue Cut Fire Damage – Highways

On September 6, 2016, I finally got a chance to survey the damage to the roadways in Cajon Pass that were involved in the Blue Cut Fire. Portions of the area are still closed, specifically the area north of Cajon Junction, so I was unable to access the Alray UP or the abandoned expressway sections in that area.

I was, however, able to inspect State 138 east of I-15 and all of old US 66 / 91 / 395 south of Cajon Junction. I chose not to investigate State 138 west of I-15 as there was a lot of heavy construction in progress for a four-lane widening project.

I started my journey by taking the “new” Cajon Blvd alignment that bypasses Devore Junction (I-15 and I-215). Caltrans has recently completed reconstruction of this interchange and as part of that reconstruction, they have partly rebuilt Cajon Blvd through here. While much of it is a new alignment, it does follow the original alignment (pre-1937). As a result, I was able to get some nice photos of part of that alignment.

New section of Cajon Blvd adjacent of I-15, south of Kenwood Road.
New section of Cajon Blvd adjacent of I-15, south of Kenwood Road.
Looking southerly along Cajon Blvd toward I-15.
Looking southerly along Cajon Blvd toward I-15.
Pre-1937 alignment of US 66 / 395 running along the base of the cliff.
Pre-1937 alignment of US 66 / 395 running along the base of the cliff.

The burn area itself became very apparent after Kenwood Road. The fire in this area burned as far as Keenbrook, damaging many structures in that area. A few things didn’t get burned though. One, a lone sign that says “EAT” along with its accompanying structure, remained intact. At Blue Cut, the source of the fire, I was rather amazed at what didn’t burn. Most of the cottonwood and oak trees survived untouched as well as most of the guardrail in the median of the expressway.

Just north of Kenwood Road looking toward Keenbrook. Burn area is evident near the trees in the distance as well as in the mountains.
Just north of Kenwood Road looking toward Keenbrook. Burn area is evident near the trees in the distance as well as in the mountains.
South end of Blue Cut showing fire damage.
South end of Blue Cut showing fire damage.
Looking westerly at Blue Cut. The fire burned all around here, but left most of the trees intact.
Looking westerly at Blue Cut. The fire burned all around here, but left most of the trees intact.
At Blue Cut, looking easterly. Despite the name of the fire, it didn't do that much damage here.
At Blue Cut, looking easterly. Despite the name of the fire, it didn’t do that much damage here.

North of Blue Cut, the burn area stops mostly at the old highway, but not east of it. The wooden railing is still intact at Debris Cone Creek. Some structures were damaged near Cajon Junction, such as the Chevron gas station and the McDonalds restaurant.

Looking northerly from the Cleghorn Creek Bridge toward Cleghorn Road. Utility crews are visible in the distance.
Looking northerly from the Debris Cone Creek Bridge toward Cleghorn Road. Utility crews are visible in the distance.
1939 bridge over Debris Cone Creek. Concrete K-rail was added later to protect the wooden railing.
1939 bridge over Debris Cone Creek. Concrete K-rail was added later to protect the wooden railing.
Side view of the 1939 Debris Cone Creek Bridge with its 1952 counterpart. The cross beams in the railing were removed at some point in the past few years.
Side view of the 1939 Debris Cone Creek Bridge with its 1952 counterpart. The cross beams in the railing were removed at some point in the past few years. The fire burnt up to the edge of the 1952 span.
Old railing just south of Cajon Junction, just missed by the fire.
Old railing just south of Cajon Junction, just missed by the fire.

After Cajon Junction, I followed State 138 east toward Summit. The burn area covered the entire highway from Cajon Junction to Summit Valley Road. This section is scheduled to be realigned in the near future as well.

Hwy 138 and the Cajon Amphitheater from Summit.
Hwy 138 and the Cajon Amphitheater from Summit.

Overall, most of the old highways through the Cajon Pass remained intact. Some guardrail was damaged but most was only lightly burned. How this area will react during the next few major rain storms does remain to be seen. Hopefully, mudslides and debris flows don’t become the order of the day.

Blue Cut Fire Update

While some evacuations are being lifted, others continue. The continuing evacuations are in the northwestern end of the fire, surrounding Wrightwood, Lytle Creek, and parts of Phelan.

Interstate 15 is OPEN in both directions. State 138 is still closed through the area in addition to most local roadways. The BNSF Railway is open and UP traffic is detouring onto the BNSF trackage around the damaged bridges.

Follow these links for detailed information about the fire and what areas are affected:

Inciweb Incident Page

GeoMAC – Detailed fire perimeter map

San Bernardino County Road Closures

Blue Cut Fire Map – Updated

New Fire Perimeter map available through InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 10:30 pm

I-15 will open to Northbound traffic soon as well – Per Caltrans District 8.

All Railroad traffic is still shut down through the pass. I haven’t heard of what BNSF trackage has been damaged but the Union Pacific line has been damaged at Alray. There is no ETA thus far for reopening. This also delays and/or cancels some Amtrak service as well, such as the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Blue Cut Fire and Other Wildfire Information

With all the wildfires propping up lately, it is important to stay on top of the news. Your local newspaper and tv stations should be able to give updated information, but you can also get it directly from the agencies involved. I highly recommend the sites listed below as they can give more detailed information about what is going on and are usually updated regularly.

Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination (Fire incident mapping) 
http://www.geomac.gov/

Incident Information System (Mapping and Detailed Incident Reports)
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

Caltrans Road Conditions
http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

California Highway Patrol  Traffic Incident Information (Gives very detailed reports on how these fires affect roadways)
http://cad.chp.ca.gov/

If you have any websites that you would like to share – Please send us feedback or use the comments for this post.

Blue Cut Fire

Fire Perimeter Map from InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 8:22 am

In regards to the current fires in the Cajon Pass, I plan to assess the damage to the highways myself once the area is clear. From what I understand so far, it looks like most of the wooden railing along US 66 / 91 / 395 in the pass may be gone, in addition to the historic Summit Inn restaurant at Cajon Summit. Other structures, not associated with the roadway, have also burned. According to CHP, a railroad bridge in the pass has burned, the Alray UP where former US 66 / 91 / 395 passed below. Please stay clear of the Cajon Pass for the duration of this fire.

DETOURS:

If you need to head north toward I-15 and I-40 near Barstow, I recommend taking I-10 East to State 62 East to State 247 North to Barstow. From there, you will connect with I-15 and I-40 just west of their junction. State 247 is a two lane roadway and may be busier than usual, so use caution.

All other traffic should use State 14 through Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley to connect with points to the north/west of I-15.