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Bridge fire shuts down I-15 in California

Bridge Fire Shuts Down I-15 In California

HESPERIA, Calif. - All three lanes of Interstate 15 in Hesperia were closed in both directions Monday after a construction worker's blowtorch accidentally ignited the wooden supports of an overpass that was under construction.

The freeway - Southern California's main connector to Las Vegas - has been closed since 1:30 p.m. because of falling debris, said California Highway Patrol supervisor Carlos Juarez.

Officials said drivers should stay away from the Cajon Pass, which is just south of the area of Interstate 15 closed by the fire.

Dozens of firefighters were battling the blaze in windy conditions, with limited access to water, and high danger that the wooden skeleton of the football-field-sized bridge would collapse, said San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins.

Hesperia is about 3 hours southwest of Las Vegas on the way to Los Angeles.

A Las Vegas resident on the scene indicated that traffic might be backed up to El Cajon Pass.

Christina Munoz, an usher at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, was stuck at the scene and reported that traffic is moving "inch by inch."

Caltrans contractors were still working on top of the bridge after it caught fire and were unaware of the blaze until being evacuated by firefighters because the flames were being pushed away by the wind. One worker suffered from smoke inhalation, Wilkins said.

So far, Wilkins estimated, a third of the bridge has burned and he said Caltrans engineers are monitoring the flames to alert firefighters of a possible collapse. There were 55 firefighters battling the flames in winds that gusted to 35 mph.

"Right now the wind is helping and hurting us," Wilkins said. "If it were going the opposite direction, that whole bridge would be gone right now."

But, he added the wind also was pushing water away from the blaze as firefighters fought the flames that were ignited when the worker used his blowtorch on rebar.

"Traffic is backed up, but we are moving inch by inch," Munoz told the Review-Journal. "Fire trucks, helicopters, police vehicles and highway patrol are everywhere."

"Smoke and flames can be seen, but at a distance. There was a woman next to us saying she is about to run out of gas and asked us to let pass to cut on to the shoulder," Munoz reported.

"People are talking to each other. We left Ontario Mills at 1:30 p.m. and we hit the traffic at around 2 p.m. The bridge looks like it's made out of wood, so it was burning pretty good when we first got here. We are closer to the bridge, now a half-mile."

Firefighters also have limited access to water because the area is newly constructed, and the nearest hydrant is half a mile away, Wilkins said. The department can't use water-dropping helicopters because the weight of the falling water would likely lead to a collapse of a wooden structure that would have served as a frame when concrete was poured.

"The Cajon Pass is going to be a nightmare for the next 24 to 48 hours at least," Wilkins said. "So if at all possible, avoid it altogether, because there is just no way they're going to open it any time soon."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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hoofy53 May 07 2014 at 7:20 AM

Is this welder an inept union worker or an inept Illegal ?? America,you make the call !! Obviously this media isn't going to answer that question !!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Buckingham's May 06 2014 at 7:28 PM

This was a MAJOR faux pas!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
toddisit May 06 2014 at 7:19 PM

If he is in a union which I am assumimg he is, nothing will happen to his job.

Non unionized jobs-well, he didn't smile for 8 hours in the past so this will certainly do him in now. That is how arbitrary employment is out there.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
tdiplaci toddisit May 06 2014 at 8:11 PM

No, but maybe if you asked " Was the contractor named?" you might get an answer.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
9.7 AOL WECLOME May 06 2014 at 6:51 PM

Was the contracter named?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
cact25 9.7 AOL WECLOME May 06 2014 at 10:14 PM

yest. It was mtzeus.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jbaer10314 May 06 2014 at 6:51 PM

That's okay. Nobody uses I-15 that far out anyway.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
cact25 jbaer10314 May 06 2014 at 10:12 PM

Except going to and coming from Vegas.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Christine jbaer10314 May 07 2014 at 12:51 AM

you obviously do not live in California

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Rob May 06 2014 at 6:28 PM

Well it looks like Job Security for the workers for another year. What a deal!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
WILLIAM DOYAL May 06 2014 at 6:28 PM

I don't believe this. Engineers weigh in.

The department can't use water-dropping helicopters because the weight of the falling water would likely lead to a collapse of a wooden structure that would have served as a frame when concrete was poured.

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1 reply
TomTrev1 WILLIAM DOYAL May 06 2014 at 8:28 PM

Almost nothing is correct in this story beginning with the lame pic of a guy with a blowtorch, The fire was caused by welding sparks hitting temporary wood false-work that is heavily oiled so concrete won't stick to the forms. One could argue that the work should have been halted due to high winds but since the wind always blows hard in that area it becomes a judgment call; the bridge has to be built and it will be built in high wind at times and some wind all the time. Precautions were taken and things went bad, I know this for a fact. The contractor is a respected/experienced union contractor, the welding was being done by a sub contractor, most likely filing for bankruptcy right now. The corridor is a major choke point for private and commercial traffic into and out of southern California with a huge rail line in parallel

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1 reply
cact25 TomTrev1 May 06 2014 at 10:16 PM

The picture shows a cutting/welding torch, not a blow torch. Big difference.

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eddo3924 May 06 2014 at 6:20 PM

Do Republicans know what manual labor is???????

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
tracystokely May 06 2014 at 6:14 PM

Another example of the "fine, outstanding" democrat run unions and their worker. It is also an example of an idiot writing about something he knew nothing about and did zero research on. You do not cut rebar with a "blowtorch". If you are going to do it, you use a CUTTING TORCH.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
3 replies
WILLIAM DOYAL May 06 2014 at 5:43 PM

Sounds like a bogus reason not to drop water on it. Its ruined anyway

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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