Part of Interstate 15 reopens after crippling bridge fire

Northbound lanes of Interstate 15 in Hesperia reopened Tuesday afternoon, more than a day after the freeway was closed because of a fire that badly damaged a bridge under construction.

Southbound lanes were expected to stay closed through the Wednesday morning commute, officials said.

Officials were spending the rest of Tuesday scrambling to clear debris. They estimated that the fire would set the bridge project back at least six months.

Erratic winds gusting to 35 mph had made it difficult for firefighters to get water on the flames, officials said. Debris fell onto the freeway, keeping crews from getting close enough to make significant progress.

Traffic was snarled for miles, and delays continued into Tuesday as vehicles crawled through detours. At the construction site, excavators and two large cranes dismantled smoking debris, piling it next to the freeway.


Tim Watkins, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Associated Governments, which is overseeing the project, said it was too soon to determine the extent of the damage and whether concrete support pillars and abutment walls were destabilized. Regardless, he said the fire caused a “significant loss” in terms of timing because crews will not only have to rebuild the destroyed components but find new materials at new prices -- which could also add to the costs.

About $31 million of the project’s $59-million price tag had been earmarked for construction, Watkins said. It was not clear how much of that money had been spent before the fire, he said, or how much it would cost to repair the fire damage.