5 drones over North Fire delay firefighting aircrafts

Fire officials said aircraft sent to battle a wildfire that swept across a Southern California freeway were briefly delayed after five drones were spotted above the blaze.

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Lee Beyer said it was the fourth time in a span of a month that a drone disrupted efforts to suppress a wildfire in the region. He said some firefighting planes that were in the air were grounded, while several other aircraft that were on the way to the blaze had to be diverted until the drones left the area.

The North Fire started around 2:30 p.m. on Friday along Interstate 15 -- north of Highway 138 and near the Baldy Mesa area -- and quickly grew to 3,500 acres. As of 10 p.m., the wildfire was only 5 percent contained.

The flames, fanned by hot desert winds, swept across the highway's southbound lanes, destroying 20 vehicles and damaging 10, the San Bernardino National Forest Service said on the fire incident site.

California Highway Patrol spokesperson Steve Carapia said 50 to 75 vehicles were left abandoned on the freeway when motorists ran to safety. The forest service said there are no confirmed injuries.

Southbound I-15 is closed, while two northbound lanes are now open. Mandatory evacuations have been issued for the surrounding areas.

Four structures were destroyed by the fire, the forest service said. Another 50 homes in the rural Baldy Mesa community were threatened.

The highway at Cajon Junction, the main highway between Southern California and Las Vegas, was crowded with weekend travelers when the wildfire quickly began to spread.


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