A wildfire with a ferocity never seen before by veteran California firefighters raced up and down canyon hillsides, instantly engulfing homes and forcing thousands of people to flee, some running for their lives just ahead of the flames.
By Wednesday, a day after it ignited in brush left tinder-dry by years of drought, the blaze had spread across nearly 47 square miles and was raging out of control. The flames advanced despite the efforts of 1,300 firefighters.
Authorities could not immediately say how many homes had been destroyed, but they warned that the number will be large.
No deaths were reported, but cadaver dogs were searching the ruins for anyone who was overrun by the flames.
In 40 years of fighting fires, Incident Commander Mike Wakoski said, he had never seen conditions as extreme as those in Cajon Pass, where the fire broke out Tuesday.
Residents like Vi Delgado and her daughter April Christy, who had been through a major brushfire years before, said they had never seen anything like it either.
"No joke, we were literally being chased by the fire," a tearful April Christy said in a voice choked with emotion as she and her mother sat in their minivan in an evacuation center parking lot in Fontana. They did not go inside because their dogs, three Chihuahuas and a mixed-breed mutt, were not allowed.
"You've got flames on the side of you. You've got flames behind you," Christy said, describing a harrowing race down a mountain road. She was led by a sheriff's patrol car in front while a California Highway Patrol vehicle trailed behind and a truck filled with firefighters battled flames alongside her.
More than 34,000 homes and some 82,000 people were under evacuation warnings as firefighters concentrated their efforts on saving homes in the mountain communities of Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and Phelan. They implored residents not to think twice if told to leave, but it appears many were staying.
"From reports that we were hearing, possibly up to half didn't leave," said Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.
The interstate is a major route connecting Southern California to Las Vegas, and countless big rigs were parked along it on both sides of Cajon Pass on Wednesday, waiting for it to reopen.
Less than 24 hours after the blaze began 60 miles east of Los Angeles, authorities had assembled a fleet of 10 air tankers, 15 helicopters and an army of 1,300 firefighters, many of them just off the lines of a wildfire that burned for 10 days just to the east.
A fast moving wildfire continued raging near San Bernadino, California, forcing the evacuation of at least 82,000 and putting more than 30,000 structures at risk. The fire is one of 8 large fires burning across the state, where more than 10,000 firefighters are deployed.
As of Tuesday morning, the Blue Cut fire has already engulfed 30,000 acres and was expected to spread amid hot, dry and windy conditions.
Despite the efforts of 1,250 firefighters with more on the way, the blaze was 0 percent contained. The devastating blaze came as California is suffering through its worst drought on record. Dried out soils and widespread tree deaths, make trees and other vegetation more susceptible to fast spreading flames.
A new blaze seared its way into the pockmarked Southern California landscape Tuesday -- shuttering parts of two major freeways and forcing mandatory evacuations in an area that's already been extensively blackened by wildfire this year.
The Blue Cut Fire was first reported around 11 a.m. local time Tuesday and grew quickly -- consuming nearly 2,000 acres in about an hour's time, authorities said -- near the Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino National Forest.