California wildfire shuts down Interstate 5

USA TODAY

Published 6:34 p.m. UTC Sep 6, 2018

A fast-moving wildfire in northern California forced the closure of the Pacific Coast’s primary interstate in both directions and suspended Amtrak service into Oregon on Wednesday night.

The human-caused Delta Fire is burning on both sides of Interstate 5 north of Lakehead in California’s Shasta County, which, earlier this summer, was ravaged by the deadly Carr Fire near Redding. The fire, which had consumed 5,000 acres as of 9:58 p.m. PST, had gathered strength from “mixed conifer and decadent brush with no recent fire history and heavy dead and down surface fuels,” according to Inciweb.

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The only continuous highway to touch the borders of Mexico and Canada, I-5 was shut down 10 miles north of Redding to a point south of Mount Shasta. There was no timetable, as of Wednesday night for the interstate’s reopening.

The fire, reported at 12:51 p.m., was zero percent contained on Wednesday night, with fire crews listing its behavior as "extreme."

While the Delta Fire was not an immediate threat to any of the area’s larger cities and towns, the wildfire had destroyed abandoned trucks left “littered” on I-5 and forced evacuations for residents adjacent to the interstate to the border of neighboring Siskiyou County, the Redding Record-Searchlight, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.

The city of Dunsmuir was placed under an evacuation warning late Wednesday night, with the fire burning about 15 miles away, according to the Record-Searchlight.

In a Facebook Live video from near the fire, CHP Patrol Sgt. Tim Hinkson said, “It’s just going to be a mess out there on I-5.”

On the freeway’s closure, Hinkson said, “It’s just too dangerous to let cars go through there.”

Amtrak's Coast Starlight service, which runs from Sacramento to Klamath Falls, would resume when "conditions safely permit," a company spokesperson told the Record-Searchlight via email.

The Delta Fire sparked just six days after full containment of the Carr Fire, which killed eight people, destroyed more than 1,600 structures and burned nearly 230,000 acres over five weeks. The sixth-most destructive wildfire in Golden State history cost nearly $160 million in suppression efforts.

At one point, the Carr Fire jumped the Sacramento River and encroached on Redding, the region’s largest city, forcing mandatory widespread evacuations and knocking out power.

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