LOS ANGELES — As firefighters continued to battle the 3,500-acre North fire in the Cajon Pass area early Saturday, thunderstorms moved into the region and began dropping scattered showers on Southern California.

LOS ANGELES — As firefighters continued to battle the 3,500-acre North fire in the Cajon Pass area early Saturday, thunderstorms moved into the region and began dropping scattered showers on Southern California.

Moisture from a tropical storm off Baja California was streaming northward, dumping rain in pockets across the area. Much of Los Angeles County was expected to get some rain, said Scott Sukup, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

By 8:45 a.m. Saturday, Carson had already reported half an inch of rain, he said.

Rain also fell in the area around the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County where the brush fire that swept over the 15 Freeway on Friday was still chewing through dry hills.

All but one lane of the freeway, the major artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was open Saturday morning.

The fire erupted just after 2:30 p.m. and quickly grew to 3,500 acres, shutting down the freeway in both directions. The fire burned or destroyed 44 vehicles and at least four homes, and was continuing to bear down on mountain communities.

The fire struck while the road through the pass was busy with commuters and vacationers, some of whom were forced by flames to abandon their cars.

Many of those who fled their vehicles panicked, unsure of where to find safety as they watched the land around them burn. Cars, trucks and even a boat went up in flames on the freeway. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft made dramatic drops of water and flame retardant.

"I’ve never seen anything like this before," California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Carapia told the Los Angeles Times.

Serrano High School in nearby Phelan became an evacuation center, and as the sun set Friday night, a few families began to trickle in to seek refuge. Emergency crews from the American Red Cross unloaded green cots and set them up in the school’s large gymnasium.

Among the displaced was Bruno Anderson, 56, who said he smelled the smoke and saw the flames before he heard any reports on TV.

"I’m numb, dazed," said Anderson, who has lived in Phelan for more than a decade. "It got really close."

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

All northbound lanes and three southbound lanes of the 15 were open Saturday morning, the CHP confirmed. It was unknown when the remaining southbound lane would be reopened.

The fire was 5 percent contained.

Phelan resident Andrew Eblen lost his childhood home in the fire.

On Saturday morning, Eblen surveyed the damage on his family’s lot on El Centro Road. He looked over the piles of burnt wood and singed metal to see what remained of his home.

Eblen, 21, said he and his fiance, Britany Carpenter, spent $5,000 renovating the place and planned on living there with their 7-month-old son Eli.

"There’s nothing left," he said.

Carpenter, still shaken by the blaze, said Eblen was doing his best to "hold it together for us."

Eblen’s parents, who still lived in the home, were out of town when the fire came through, he said. This is the first time the family’s house was damaged in their 30 years there, he said, even though "this area is known for fires."

"They’re depressed," Eblen said of his parents. "They’re trying to see through it."

His family spent the morning deciding on the future, he said.

"Yesterday was complete panic. Now, it’s what do we do next?" he said. "Fires happen. It’s just sad that they affect people so harshly."

The rain clouds that were moving into the area Saturday brought a welcome increase in moisture—as well as the threat of lightning and gusty winds.

Carol Underhill of the U.S. Forest Service said officials were waiting to see just what the tropical storm’s effects would be.

"Rain itself is good," she said, "However, with thunderstorms also comes wind and lightning strikes and those are not so good."

Meanwhile, a fast-moving wildfire tore through the Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood on Friday night, prompting hasty evacuations at several busy campgrounds. The 200-acre Pine fire was only 5 percent contained Saturday morning, fire officials said.

About 10 p.m. Friday, officials woke up campers, who grabbed as many belongings as they could and filed onto buses and into sheriff’s vehicles, which took them to a local high school, said L’Tanga Watson of the U.S. Forest Service.

Saturday’s stormy weather offered a potential respite.

"That would be nice if we could get some downpour," said Deputy Jason Ames of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Palmdale Station.

Several deaf children from a nearby camp and a Girl Scout troop were among the evacuees who were taken to Serrano High School in Phelan on Friday night, Ames said.

Watson said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.


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