This site is one of the best to get updated information on all the fires ongoing in California.
The tour began at Devore, CA at about 8:30 am after meeting a friend, who ended up being the only person to show. After a quick briefing on what we were to see, we headed south to Verdemont, where we inspected a freeway overpass that had remained mostly intact from its original 1950’s construction. The bridge rail and approach guard rail was original and relatively untouched. From there, we headed back to Cajon Blvd and viewed the old concrete alignment at Verdemont.
After Verdemont, we headed back to Devore to see a section of intact 1916 paving, which acts partly as a driveway for an antenna site. The paving, oil macadam, is quite rare to see these days and was pretty cool to see. Despite all it has gone through, the paving was fairly smooth with only a few major potholes. The roadway damage did also offer an opportunity to more closely inspect the paving itself. The aggregate that was used was fairly large by modern standards and appeared to be granite.
North on Cajon Blvd, we passed a couple of C-monuments adjacent to the freeway. I first spotted these on a trip a few months ago following the Blue Cut fire. It was nice to see they were still there. Those monuments were also at the point where old Cajon Blvd merges with the “new” Cajon Blvd (the extension from Devore on a new alignment).
Our next stop was at Blue Cut. There, we checked out a plaque commemorating the history of the Blue Cut area. Blue Cut, as it was noted on the plaque, was the location of a toll booth on the original wagon road through here. We also inspected the foundations of the 1940’s weigh station, which was removed not long after the freeway bypassed this section. While we were at Blue Cut, we also watched three trains pass by, one of which was a “fast freight”, which was passing another train.
Moving north from Blue Cut, we stopped briefly at the Debris Cone Creek bridge, then headed toward Cajon Junction. At Cajon Junction, we followed the eastern frontage road south to the end of the road. There, we found the trail monument from 1917, which was placed alongside the roadway just after it was paved. The monument itself was moved to its present location when the freeway was built. This location was also the divergence of the original path through Cajon Pass and the later roads, which eventually became US 66. As it was getting a bit hot, we moved onto our next stop – Cajon Summit.
Between Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit, the old roadway has been greatly modified. Only portions of both directions of the former expressway are still visible. The whole section, however, has been closed since the Blue Cut fire burned the area. This same fire, unfortunately, also took what would have been our lunch stop – the Summit Inn Café. The sign still remains, but the whole business is gone. It may be rebuilt, but only time will tell. So far, the site has only been cleared.
After stopping at the summit, it was time to work our way back down the hill. Instead of taking the freeway back to Devore, we decided it best to take the old highway once again. This time, we made an additional stop at a bridge near Swarthout Canyon Road. This stop proved to be quite interesting as we found the foundations for an old structure that was alongside the 1916 roadway. We figured the old building may have been a gas station or some other roadside service building. We also saw two more trains pass by while we were there.
We headed back to Devore to finish up the tour. By then, we were quite hungry, so we decided to have a late breakfast at Tony’s Diner. The food was decent and the location was nice. It was good to be in a nice air-conditioned building as well. Overall, the tour was a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t well attended. Next time will be better and hopefully be cooler.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
GeoMAC – Detailed fire perimeter map
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.
Fire Perimeter Map from InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 8:22 am
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)
Incident Information System (Mapping and Detailed Incident Reports)
Caltrans Road Conditions
California Highway Patrol Traffic Incident Information (Gives very detailed reports on how these fires affect roadways)
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.
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.
As the Sand Fire has grown quite substantially in the past few days, it has become more difficult to track where it is going. I’ve found a couple of good links for up-to-date information on this fire. Map below courtesy of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.