The I-15 Bridge in Hesperia, California collapsed on Monday, following a fire accidentally ignited by a bridge construction worker. The Southern California to Las Vegas freeway was closed just after 1:30 p.m. as a precaution, due to falling debris.
Motorists have been urged by local officials to steer clear of the Cajon Pass, which is situated just south of the area of Interstate 15. A massive six-mile-long traffic jam backed up to the south, while an even more massive 20 mile jam was reported going north.
The fire that led to the I-15 Bridge collapse was started when a construction worker’s blowtorch accidentally ignited the wooden supports of the Ranchero Road overpass bridge, according to San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins.
The blaze was made worse by strong prevailing winds on Monday as dozens of firefighters tried to contain and extinguish the fire. The firefighters themselves were put at a significant risk as the wooden skeleton of the bridge was in danger of collapsing any minute.
Most of the flames were doused by Monday night apart from some smoldering remnants. Nevertheless, as Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga told reporters, firefighters worked throughout the night to ensure the fire was fully out.
Not long after the fire had started, Caltrans contractors were working on top of the I-15 Bridge and were completely unaware of the blaze beneath them. They were eventually evacuated by firefighters and one worker suffered smoke inhalation.
San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins said about the fire: “The Cajon Pass is going to be a nightmare for the next 24 to 48 hours at least. So if at all possible, avoid it altogether, because there is just no way they’re going to open it any time soon.”
It remains to be seen what action, if any, will be taken against the bridge construction worker whose blowtorch led to the I-15 Bridge collapse on Monday. Authorities will be looking to establish whether the construction worker’s actions were the result of negligence or an accident.