Cargo Transportation Easing in Fire-Ravaged Southern California - Global Trade Magazine
  August 22nd, 2016 | Written by

Cargo Transportation Easing in Fire-Ravaged Southern California

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  • Backlog of containers at southern California ports due to wildfire.
  • Freight trains beginning to move through Socal's fire-scorched Cajon Pass.
  • Cajon Pass is major east-west route for rail and trucks.

As firefighters successfully began to contain the devastating Blue Cut wildfire in southern California, cargo transportation bottlenecks began to ease and the backlog of containers at southern California ports and along rail lines began to move.

Two train routes in the Cajon Pass, 90 miles east of Los Angeles, came back on line as the fire receded but two remained closed, one including a Union Pacific bridge which was damaged by flames.

Late last week, firefighting crews were scrambling to get the damaged lines operational.

The routes through the Cajon Pass represent major shipping arteries connecting Southern California, Las Vegas, and the Midwest. Tons of cargo unloaded from ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are carried by rail to points east, such as major rail hub in Kansas City and Chicago. More than 70 trains a day run through the rugged San Bernardino Mountains. The pass is also a major route for truckers bringing goods to and from distribution centers in the Inland Empire.

BNSF Railway operates three tracks through the pass. Trains were running on two of its routes after a 30-hour stoppage. BNSF infrastructure was not damaged.

Union Pacific’s single line through the pass was unusable after fire damaged a bridge just north of Cajon Junction. A Union Pacific spokesman said the railway was rerouting trains around the fire in coordination with BNSF.

The Blue Cut fire erupted last Tuesday, destroyed 100 homes and more than 200 other structures in its path. Evacuation notices were issued to 80,000 people in the area. According to the latest reports, only hundreds of these have been cleared to return to their home.

Fire experts said controlling a blaze as ferocious as this will take weeks.

The fire is still raging over more than 30,000 acres and is 40 percent contained. Over 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze.

The flames could still pose a further threat to cargo movement through the Cajon Pass and the surrounding area. It all depends, noted, local fire authorities, on which way the wind is blowing.

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