The gopher fire closed both directions of I-15 and Old Hwy 395. Photo Credit: Cal Fire
The gopher fire closed both directions of I-15 and Old Hwy 395. Photo Credit: Cal Fire

Drivers fleeing a brushfire drove the wrong way on Interstate 15, and firefighting helicopters were called in as flames jumped the freeway north of Escondido Sunday.

Video on social media showed drivers fleeing the fire, using both the right and left emergency lanes, as four lanes of freeway traffic continued to stream north towards the fire. Firefighters contained most of the blaze to a steep hill on the west side of the freeway. They said the freeway was closed due to possible damage to power poles that hold wires above it.

The blaze, dubbed the gopher fire, was first reported at 11:05 a.m., north of the Gopher Canyon and Champagne Boulevard exit. It had consumed 10 acres in 90 minutes, and was threatening eight homes at 12:35 p.m., Cal Fire spokesman Issac Sanchez said. By Monday morning, the fire was 70 percent contained, with 28 acres blackened and no structures lost.

Northbound traffic on Interstate 15 was stopped five miles north of Escondido, at Gopher Canyon, and it was reopened at about 1:50 p.m. Southbound traffic was blocked at the Old highway U.S. 395 offramp, south of Bonita, until 2:30, and the right lanes were to remain closed all afternoon.

Old highway U.S. 395 next to the freeway was also closed north of Champagne Acres, California Highway Patrol officers said. Seventy firefighters had been assigned to the gopher fire, Cal Fire officials said. No official evacuations had been ordered as of 1 p.m.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury while working to extinguish the blaze, according to Cal Fire.

— City News Service