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.

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