Taya Hart grabbed her purse and jumped out of the van. She ran away from the freeway, uphill, her heart beating fast. Her body shook.

Taya, 16, called her mother.

"I love you, Mom," she said. "But there's a huge fire."

On Friday afternoon, Taya and her soccer teammates were headed south to San Diego on Interstate 15 from their homes in Las Vegas for a tournament when they encountered a brush fire in the Cajon Pass.

The fire, which erupted just after 2:30 p.m. and quickly grew to 3,500 acres, shut down the highway in both directions. By evening, it had destroyed 20 vehicles and at least four homes, and was bearing down on mountain communities.

About 1,000 firefighters were on the scene as the fire burned into the night. It was just 5% contained.

In a region where brush fires are a way of life, the scene on the main route to Las Vegas was surreal.