Business & Economy

Blue Cut Fire puts the brakes on truckers, trains

The Blue Cut Fire and a burned out semi truck seen off Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass Tuesday evening. 



The Blue Cut Fire burns in San Bernardino County Tuesday evening August 16th, 2016. The fire had burned 15,000 acres and was 0% contained, with multiple structures threatened and destroyed. Interstate 15 was also shut down at the 215.
The Blue Cut Fire and a burned out semi truck seen off Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass Tuesday evening. The Blue Cut Fire burns in San Bernardino County Tuesday evening August 16th, 2016. The fire had burned 15,000 acres and was 0% contained, with multiple structures threatened and destroyed. Interstate 15 was also shut down at the 215.
Stuart Palley for KPCC

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The massive Blue Cut Fire has not only wreaked havoc for tens of thousands of residents, it's also delaying thousands of trucks and trains that move goods in and out of Southern California and burned a crucial train trestle normally used by dozens of trains a day. 

“It is a pretty dramatic impact, trying to work around this fire,” said Shawn Yadon, chief executive officer of the California Trucking Association. “I-15 is one of the major trade corridors in the United States with literally thousands and thousands of heavy duty trucks coming through."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the northbound I-15 was closed from the 215 Freeway at Kenwood Avenue while the southbound side was closed at Ranchero Road in Hesperia to the 215 Freeway in San Bernardino. There is currently no estimate when I-15 – or the other roads that have been affected by the fire – will re-open.

Yadon says some 5,500 commercials trucks drive through the Cajon Pass on a typical day – near where the fire is burning. Those trucks are now having to take out-of-the-way alternate routes on two-lane mountain roads, such as going through the Yucca Valley or Lancaster. 

“Some of these detours will probably add another 100 miles onto a route,” said Yadon.

As a result, many goods will arrive to warehouses late, including meat, cheese and dairy products arriving in Southern California from the midwest, said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association.

“There’s just no way to make it on time," he said. However, he does not expect consumers to feel the delays. 

“There’s not going to be any impact on goods availability in Southern California," said Yaden. "The truckers themselves will be the ones eating those time delays, and it goes with the territory when you drive a truck. You deal with it."

The Port of Long Beach said late Wednesday they are monitoring the situation.

Train traffic also interrupted 

Some 90 BNSF freight trains also go through the Cajon Pass on a typical day. On Tuesday and Wednesday, all major rail traffic was halted. However, on Wednesday afternoon, BNSF was given permission to operate in the area, according to a company spokeswoman.

Union Pacific runs as many as 70 trains a day on its tracks through the Cajon Pass, and those trains were being re-routed to eastern markets through Riverside and Palm Desert, said spokesman Justin Jacobs.

On Wednesday afternoon, the fire burned a heavily trafficked bridge owned by Union Pacific. 

“That bridge is a main line,” said Jacobs.

He said it's still too dangerous for crews to assess the damage, which could likely take considerable time to fix.

This story has been updated