UP IN FLAMES: Smoke rises from vehicles as a fast-moving wildfire swept across a freeway on July 17 2015 near Hesperia, California. Image: AP / NBC4
LOS ANGELES, California - A rare summer rainstorm has allowed firefighters to contain a wildfire that swept across a California interstate highway, torching vehicles and sending people running for their lives.
Light rain and moist air dampened the blaze in the mountainous Cajon Pass, 90km north-east of Los Angeles, the main artery from southern California and Las Vegas.
The wind-driven fire was sparked on Friday (July 17 2015) below the elevated lanes of Interstate 15. Pushed by 60km/h wind, it raced up a hill and on to the traffic-clogged freeway, trapping hundreds of people amid a cauldron of smoke, flames and ash.
The flames destroyed 20 vehicles on the freeway before heading into the neighboring community of Baldy Mesa, where it burned seven homes and destroyed 44 more vehicles.
VIDEO: Huge California fire burns vehicles
In all, the fire burned about across 22 square kilometers. Two people suffered minor smoke inhalation but declined medical attention.
California is in the midst of a severe drought, and wildfires are common. Some break out near freeways, but it's very unusual to have vehicles caught in the flames.
It being a Friday afternoon, however, Interstate 15 was typically jammed with vehicles traveling from Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Adding to the congestion was construction work in the area.
Another wildfire that broke out Friday night (July 17) in the San Gabriel Mountains and forced the evacuation of 300 campers in nearby Wrightwood. It burned about 80 hectares.
CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE: A burned-out car lies next to a destroyed structure in the rural community of Baldy Mesa, California on July 18 2015. Image: AP / Matt Hartman