Crews were using heavy equipment Monday night to tear down the smoldering skeleton of a huge bridge overpass that was engulfed in flames, forcing officials to shut down the 15 Freeway in the Cajon Pass and snarling traffic for miles on the heavily traveled artery.
Earlier Monday, state transportation officials said the freeway would be closed for up two days while workers remove the rubble from the lanes. The freeway is the main route from Southern California to Las Vegas.
Contract construction crews Monday night were using tractors and bulldozers to tear down the Ranchero Road overpass, even as it continued to burn into the night, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said.
The site was being illuminated by powerful spotlights as firefighters mopped up hot spots and construction workers used torches to cut twisted sections of steel, according to television news footage.
The fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. and was sparked by workers cutting reinforced steel bars with torches, the Fire Department said.
"It's not looking good," Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said Monday afternoon.
The blaze caused the huge overpass to collapse on the freeway. Monday night, firefighters were still spraying water on the smoking hulk.
Motorists were advised to use alternative routes, including California highways 138 and 18.
"If you do know alternate routes, you should take those routes," said Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez.