Published 10:41 PM EDT Sep 9, 2018
Interstate 5, one of the country’s busiest roadways, stretching nearly 1,400 miles from Mexico to Canada, will remain closed indefinitely for a 45-mile stretch through fire-ravaged northern California.
The raging Delta Fire, which chased motorists from their vehicles and left a trail of burned-out vehicles in its wake last week, forcing state authorities to close I-5 on Wednesday afternoon, continued to burn mostly out of control on Sunday in Shasta and Trinity counties. It had burned 40,903 acres, according to InciWeb’s 7 p.m. PST update, and was listed at 5 percent containment.
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Some 2,400 personnel were battling against the flames, primarily working to hold primary control lines, extinguish short-range spot fires and complete burnout operations in the fire’s southeast area.
While labeling the human-caused Delta Fire as “a very real threat,” authorities said Sunday that I-5 would remain shut down in both directions from 10 miles north of Redding to near Mount Shasta.
The fire is still burning on both sides of I-5, though flames have receded from the roadway. Still, California authorities said the state’s primary north-south transportation corridor was “unsafe for vehicular travel”—with the exception of emergency vehicles, utility company staff and timber land employees.
“But there is some concern it could wrap back around the freeway,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Brandon Vaccaro told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That could force us to have to close the freeway again, which would be bad, or trap motorists on the freeway, which would be worse.”
With I-5 closed, motorists – many of them truckers – are being forced to take lengthy detours on smaller roadways, including highways 229 and 89. It’s unknown when I-5 will reopen, though fire crews already expect to work deep into September against the Delta Fire. The preliminary containment date is Sept. 22, according to InciWeb.
The Delta Fire is the latest in a string of wildfires that have devastated northern California this summer. It has already burned into the 46,150-acre Hirz Fire on the east and is only miles from the area burned by the Carr Fire, which killed eight people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned 360 square miles before it was fully contained Aug. 30.
The Hirz Fire was contained at 95 percent on Sunday night, according to InciWeb.
Contributing: Redding Record-Searchlight; The Associated Press.