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I-15 bridge collapse occurs after worker's blowtorch ignites wooden supports

An I-15 bridge collapse caused a traffic nightmare for commuters traveling to California on I-15 yesterday. The three lanes of Interstate 15 in Hesperia were closed in both directions yesterday after the blowtorch of a construction worker accidentally burned the wooden supports of an overpass that was under construction. Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze despite the wind and limited access to water, according to an updated report from KTTV Los Angeles.

Crews on Tuesday reopened one side of northbound Highway 15 after traffic was stalled for hours as the massive structure burned through the night. The fire started at 1:30 pm Monday afternoon, according to the San Bernardino Fire Department. The I-15 bridge collapse occurred just hours after the fire erupted while laborers worked to complete the demolition and begin cleaning the area.

Drivers had to wait until Wednesday morning for the complete reopening of both directions. A statement from the fire department regarding the I-15 bridge collapse read:

"Falling debris and ongoing collapses prevented crews from fighting the fire from beneath the structure.Once personnel pulled back out of the collapse zone, constant winds of 25 mph with 35 mph gusts kept hose streams from penetrating deep into the bridge and to the seat of the fire. These same winds contributed to the quick spread as flames were pushed through the construction area much like a wildland environment."

The CS Monitor explains that the bridge was intended to carry Ranchero Road over the eight lanes of I-15 about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The overpass is being built at the northern foot of the approximately 4,200-foot Cajon Pass, one of the few major freeway routes crossing the east-west trending mountain ranges that separate the populous metropolitan areas of Southern California from the expanse of the Mojave and desert cities.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, the construction project will cost $60 million and began more than a year ago. It is expected to open in the summer of 2015.

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