WATCH LIVE: North Fire erupts next to 15 Freeway in Cajon Pass
The fire fanned by hot desert winds burned on both sides of the 15 Freeway. As of 5:45 p.m., the North Fire had grown to 3,500 acres.
Flames swept across the 15 Freeway and burned several vehicles that were trapped in standstill traffic. Twenty vehicles were destroyed and 10 others were damaged, San Bernardino County Fire officials said.
VIDEO: North Fire sweeps across 15 Freeway, burns cars
California Highway Patrol spokesman Steve Carapia said 50 to 75 vehicles were left abandoned on the freeway. Hundreds of other motorists turned onto side roads to get away from the flames.
VIDEO: Flames engulf big rig on 15 Freeway as North Fire spreads
The fire reached Sage Street in the rural desert community of Baldy Mesa, prompting mandatory evacuations east of Sheep Creek Road, north of the 15 Freeway, west of the 15 Freeway, and south of Phelan Road. Five homes have burned and at least 50 others are currently threatened.
An evacuation center was set up at Serrano High School, 9292 Sheep Creek Road in Phelan. An animal shelter was opened at San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, 14800 7th Street in Victorville.
Full list of North Fire road closures and evacuations
A drone temporarily halted air tankers that were fighting the North Fire. Officials grounded the firefighting planes out of fear that the drone would collide with the aircrafts.
PHOTOS: North Fire erupts next to 15 Freeway in Cajon Pass
Caltrans advised commuters to avoid the area because heavy delays were expected.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but firefighters first responded to a report of a vehicle on fire on the northbound 15 Freeway between State Route 138 and Oak Hill Road.
The 15 Freeway is the main route between Southern California and Las Vegas.