Published: Sat, September 08, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

California wildfires: Motorists panic as flames surround highway

California wildfires: Motorists panic as flames surround highway

A wildfire in Northern California that ballooned in size overnight has forced the closure of dozens of miles of a major highway and disrupted Amtrak service into neighboring Oregon.

A scorched logging truck rests on Interstate 5 as the Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif., near Shasta Lake on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.

State Route 108 was closed from the Alpine-Mono county line to US 395, which was already shut down in the mountainous region about 320 kilometers (200 miles) east of Sacramento, the California Department of Transportation said.

The blaze comes as the area is already grappling with the destruction and trauma from the devastating Carr Fire, which burned over 1,000 homes and led to the deaths of eight people this summer.

I-5 is shut down from about 10 miles north of Redding to just under four miles south of Shasta.

Officials said the blaze was human-caused but they didn't indicate whether it was arson or accident. On Wednesday, flames raced across Interstate 5, chasing a number of truckers from their vehicles before flames engulfed their abandoned rigs, though no serious injuries were reported.

The fire is in a rural area with scattered homes.

A crew of 34 firefighters have touched down in New Zealand after spending nearly six weeks battling wildfires in California. Life safety is a top priority for firefighters, and the Shasta County Sheriff's Office is coordinating evacuations for areas affected by the incident.

The fire was showing "critical" behaviour - burning fiercely and moving rapidly - but was still far away from any large towns, he added.

The AP noted that Cal Fire has requested additional funding in seven of the past 10 years, though the latest one has come earlier in the year than any previous requests. The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has issued an evacuation warning for all residents of Dunsmuir.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokeswoman Carol Underhill said she wasn't sure how people apparently escaped the abandoned trucks, but she said crews had been going through and trying to help drivers.

A burned home is seen during the Delta Fire in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018.

The Delta Fire, the latest wildfire to chew through heavy brush and terrain in Shasta County at a rapid clip, has grown to almost 58 square miles and continues to burn without containment. To stop the fire's northern spread and protect structures east of Interstate 5, firefighters have started a backfiring operation off a road that runs east from Pollard Flats to Hirz Fire's western side near Salt Creek Road.

One of the two blazes was fully contained in August and residents have been allowed to return home.

The Forest Service did not release containment figures but California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Morton says the blaze is zero percent contained and still burning along Interstate 5.

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