CAJON PASS, Calif., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A new blaze seared its way into the pockmarked Southern California landscape Tuesday -- shuttering parts of two major freeways and forcing mandatory evacuations in an area that's already been extensively blackened by wildfire this year.
The Blue Cut Fire was first reported around 11 a.m. local time Tuesday and grew quickly -- consuming nearly 2,000 acres in about an hour's time, authorities said -- near the Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino National Forest.
By late Tuesday, officials said the fire had scorched 15,000 acres, forcing 80,000 people from their homes.
"We know that we've lost structures, it's unknown how many at this time," said Tracey Martinez, public information officer for the San Bernardino County Fire Department. "This fire is still raging out of control."
The fire burned just off Interstate 15, along a well-traveled stretch of highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and billowed thick, grayish-black smoke that could be seen for miles.
"When we were driving into it we were wondering if there was an explosion because it looked like a giant mushroom cloud," witness Nikka Eckstein told UPI.
Containment was at zero percent early Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said, and the blaze is being aided by mild wind gusts and triple-digit temperatures. The fire's location is about 65 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Authorities issued mandatory evacuations for the West Cajon Valley from Highway 2 to I-15 and in the Lytle Creek area, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said. As a precaution, a nearby elementary school was also evacuated.
Part of California Highway 138 and a 25-mile stretch of I-15, between Oak Hills to Devore, were closed due to their close proximity to the fire.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
No injuries or structural damage was reported as of early Tuesday afternoon, but officials said potential for those consequences always exists when there's a large fire near populated areas.
"If a public safety official tells you to evacuate, GO!" San Bernardino officials said in a post on its Facebook page. "By leaving early, you will give your family the best chance of surviving a wildfire. You also help firefighters by keeping roads clear of congestion, enabling them to move more freely and do their job.
"Grab your supplies and get out quickly. If you have pets, be sure to find an evacuation center that allows animals."
American Red Cross/Twitter
Evacuees of the #BlueCutFire can take large & small animals to the Devore Animal Shelter 19777 Shelter Way, Devore.— IE Red Cross (@ieRedCross) August 16, 2016
Several agencies, including Cal Fire and the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department, are assisting San Bernardino County and federal forest firefighters battle the flames.
The Blue Cut Fire is one of several burning across the Golden State. The Pilot and Basin Fires have each torched San Bernardino County in recent days. Both have been contained.
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