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North Fire

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North Fire
2015 Cajon Pass wildfire (North Fire).jpeg
LocationNear Victorville, San Bernardino County, California
Coordinates34°20′20″N 117°28′41″W / 34.339°N 117.478°W / 34.339; -117.478Coordinates: 34°20′20″N 117°28′41″W / 34.339°N 117.478°W / 34.339; -117.478
Date(s)July 17, 2015 (2015-07-17) – July 21, 2015 (2015-07-21)
Burned area4,250 acres (17 km2)
Buildings destroyed
  • 7 homes
  • 16 outbuildings
  • 74 vehicles
Non-fatal injuries3
North Fire is located in southern California
North Fire

The North Fire was a wildfire that occurred in the Mojave Desert near the towns of Victorville and Hesperia, north of San Bernardino and south of Bakersfield, California. The fire began on July 17, 2015. The areas most impacted were adjacent to Interstate 15, where the Cajon Pass passes through the San Bernardino National Forest. The fire spread to 4,250 acres, and burned homes and other buildings, as well as numerous vehicles stranded on the interstate. Seventy-four passenger vehicles and trucks were burned along the highway or in neighboring communities due to the fire.[3] The fire closed Interstate 15, the main highway connecting Southern California with Las Vegas, Nevada, during the first day of the blaze.[4]

One-thousand fire fighters battled the blaze during the height of the fire, which as of the evening of July 17 was five percent contained.[5] Mandatory evacuations were ordered for the towns of Phelan and Baldy Mesa, which were threatened or impacted by the fire.[6] Two-hundred-four people utilized an emergency shelter set up at Serrano High School, in Phelan.[1] The evacuation orders were lifted as crews worked to contain the fire. On the evening of July 18, the fire was reported to be 45% contained, after a rain storm from the remnant moisture of Hurricane Dolores brought cooler temperatures to the chaparral fueled fire.[7] By the following morning, the fire was reported to be 60% contained.[8] On Monday, July 20, the fire was reported to be 75% contained, but had also grown from 3,500 to 4,250 acres.[9] The fire was fully contained on July 21, and fire fighters remained on scene to douse hot spots in the burn area.[3]

The presence of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) in the area that interfered with fire fighting efforts has renewed discussion of legislation to limit the operation of drones in the United States. In response to the drone activity over active wildfires, San Bernardino County, the California State Legislature and the Congress of the United States have all proposed restrictions on privately owned drones.

Fire fighting complications[edit]

Efforts at fire suppression were complicated by the presence of drones (UAVs) in the air space being used by fire-fighting helicopters and airplanes, and by a shooting at the command center.

On Sunday, July 19, aerial suppression of the fire was temporarily halted by the presence of drones flying in the vicinity. Three of the five drones detected in the area left the scene, but the presence of two others interfered with the fire fighting operation. After a delay, the fire fighting operation resumed.[10]

On Monday, July 20, a US Forest Service officer fired his weapon outside the headquarters of the fire fighting effort, located at the fair grounds in Victorville. A man allegedly became "uncooperative" and tried to flee, dragging the officer with his car. The officer fired several rounds into the vehicle, but there were no injuries.[11]


United States Representative Paul Cook, Republican-Yucca Valley, introduced legislation known as the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015, (H.R. 3025) one week prior to the North Fire which would make it a federal offense to fly a UAV in a manner that interferes with fire fighters in the vicinity of a wildfire on federal lands.[12] The legislation has garnered renewed interest in the aftermath of the North Fire.[13]

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors discussed UAV activity in the county at its meeting on July 28, 2015. Prior to the meeting, Board Chairman James Ramos stated, regarding UAVs in the area of fire fighting operations, "When you are inhibiting the response of the first responders, then you infringe on the safety of the residents of San Bernardino County."[13] At the meeting, the county approved monetary rewards of US$25,000 for each incident for information leading to the arrest of individuals who piloted UAVs over recent wildfires in the county.[14]

Both houses of the California State Legislature have either introduced legislation or otherwise acted regarding UAVs operating over state wildfires. Senate Bill 168 would give immunity to first responders who damage or destroy privately owned UAVs operating over wildfires. And some members of the California House of Representatives are urging the Federal Aviation Administration to consider geo fencing of commercially available UAVs, which could be used by authorities to keep them out of restricted areas.[14]

In October, 2015, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced that UAVs flying within the United States must register their aircraft with the federal government. This new policy will apply to both new vehicles, as well as UAVs already owned and operated. The new policy imposes penalties on UAV owners who do not comply.[15]


Authorities have not determined the cause of the fire. The first call firefighters received was of a vehicle in flames on Interstate 15.[8]


  1. ^ a b "UPDATE: Containment reaches 60 percent, freeway fully open". Victorville Daily Press. July 19, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  2. ^ "North Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "NORTH FIRE: Blaze completely contained". Press Enterprise. July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  4. ^ "Brush Fire Jumps Southern California Freeway, Burning Cars". The New York Times. July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  5. ^ "1,000 firefighters battle blaze that leaps 15 Freeway, burns cars, threatens homes". Los Angeles Times. July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  6. ^ "North Fire: Blaze closes I-15, burns 4 structures and 18 vehicles, forces evacuations". Victorville Daily Press. July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  7. ^ "North fire is 45% contained as unusual summer storm moves through area". Los Angeles Times. July 18, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "'North Fire' 60 percent contained, evacuations lifted". KESQ-TV. July 19, 2015. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  9. ^ "NORTH FIRE: 75 PERCENT CONTAINED, 4,250 ACRES BURNED". ABC News. July 20, 2015. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  10. ^ "Drones Hampered Firefighters Battling Blaze That Torched Cars on Calif. Freeway". NBC News. July 19, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  11. ^ "Gunshots fired at North Fire command post under investigation". San Bernardino County Sun. July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  12. ^ "North fire reignites concerns about motorist safety in the Cajon Pass". San Bernardino County Sun. July 25, 2015. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  13. ^ a b "Cook introduces bill to ban drones". The Alpenhorn News. July 24, 2015. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Chasing drones away from wildfires". Los Angeles Daily News. July 27, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  15. ^ "Federal regulators to require registration of recreational drones". Washington Post. October 19, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.