A New Bridge For Economy: Gutted By Wind-Driven Fire

Can a wind-driven fire destroy a bridge?
This was apparently what happened to the Ranchero Road Bridge in the Cajon Pass. The bridge was gutted by fire on Monday afternoon (May 5) at about 1:30 p.m. when fire broke out caused by one worker cutting rebar with a blow torch and accidentally igniting a portion of the bridge made of wood, the San Bernardino County Fire Department reported.


The Ranchero Road Overpass Bridge caught fire on May 5 forcing the closure of the Interstate 15 in both directions.

Fire Stoked By Strong Winds
Fire department officials explained that the fire was stoked by strong winds of up to 35 mph, causing the flames to blow out of control and engulfing the site. The wind-driven fire also hindered the clearing process caused by the collapsed structure, prompting the reopening of the vital California-Nevada link to ease out the traffic resulting from the fire.

Fire Caused Traffic Nightmare
The heavily-used I-15 Freeway that connects Southern California with Las Vegas was affected by the fire and eventually was closed in both directions for nearly two days. As firefighters from the San Bernardino County Fire Department battled the blaze, traffic snarled for about 20 miles in both directions. Motorists were advised to take Highways 138 and 18 as alternative routes in order to avoid getting trapped in the traffic nightmare.


Firefighters and workers worked around the clock to clear the debris from the gutted bridge which collapsed on the freeway.

Tearing Down The Burnt Bridge
Tractors and bulldozers were used by construction crews to tear down the Ranchero Road Overpass Bridge while the fire was in progress. The fire melted some of the bridge’s framing and may have damaged the freeway surface, in which case, traffic speeds could be limited and there would be a need to resurface rough patches of the damaged road at a later date.

Disassembling The Bridge Chunk By Chunk
The herculean task of clearing the fire debris is designated to the San Bernardino County Fire Department crews who had to disassemble the bridge chunk by chunk while extinguishing flames as they went along. There were sections from the bridge that fell onto the freeway lanes which forced closures of the lanes.


Due to the debris from the fire which blocked the Freeway, traffic snarled by 20 miles in both directions.

I-15 Reopened
As soon as the crews finished clearing the debris which fell onto the lanes, the Interstate 15 lanes in Hesperia were reopened to traffic the next day, with the northbound lanes reopened at 5:15 p.m. while the southbound lanes were reopened at 11:54 p.m. As for the underneath pavement below the collapsed bridge, a Caltrans representative said it was in good condition. All the crews needed to do were to sweep and re-stripe the roadway.

The Multi-Million Dollar Bridge Project To Stir Economy
The new $59 million project meant another exit off the freeway and a second connection between the eastern and western parts of the high desert town. Unfortunately, all these plans have to take a back seat at the moment because of the fire that gutted most of it – ripping through the temporary wooden frame and melting threaded inserts. What was left of the collapsed 8-lane bridge is a mound of smoldering ash and twisted rebar.

Bridge For Economic Activities Gone To Ashes
Firefighters and workers at the fire scene in Hesperia worked around the clock to get the scorched I-15 Freeway clear of debris and to alleviate traffic buildup in the high desert. The bridge which started construction last year is supposed to usher in new economic activities to southern Hesperia as local officials hoped it would draw commercial establishments such as restaurants, gas stations, and motels that would lure thousands of I-15 motorists off the main artery which connects Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Now that would take some time to happen, wouldn’t it?

3 thoughts on “A New Bridge For Economy: Gutted By Wind-Driven Fire

  1. It would seem that using a blowtorch has its share of hazards. This is not the only incident of a fire destroying a civil engineering structure. I saw a news report about a fire sparked by a blowtorch and fueled by strong winds has wiped out nearly two months of construction work on a $59 million California interstate project. I’d say that is quite a setback for that particular county in California.

  2. So when it comes right down to it, this was a blessing in disguise. The fire that collapsed this bridge turned out to be the silver lining in the clouds. So for the benefit of mankind, a natural or human based disaster transpired for the purpose of saving humans, who would have otherwise perished if and when this old bridge collapsed. If this fire did not kill or harm anyone, then I’d say it was a good day.

  3. Fires aren’t the only threat to bridges. How about the plane that almost hit the bridge in Taiwan. One of the two engines on TransAsia Airways Flight 235 went idle 37 seconds after takeoff, and the pilots apparently shut off the other before making a futile attempt to restart it. It was unclear why the second engine was shut down, since the plane was capable of flying with one engine. Taiwan’s official China News Agency said investigators were looking into the possibility of “professional error.”

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