Published: Sat, September 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Big rigs abandoned as wildfire scorches California freeway

Big rigs abandoned as wildfire scorches California freeway

An explosive wildfire that closed down dozens of miles of a major California freeway almost tripled in size overnight, just weeks after a nearby blaze that left neighborhoods in ruins and killed eight people, officials said Thursday.

It is in the same parched region of the state where the Carr Fire killed eight people earlier this summer, destroying more than 1,000 homes and consuming 229,651 acres, according to California fire officials.

A nearby fire in the Redding area burned some 1,100 homes and killed eight people last month.

Firefighters have not been able to build any containment lines against the fast-moving blaze, officials with the Shasta-Trinity National Forest said on Twitter. 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.

About 17 big-rigs were abandoned and at least four caught fire, Lt Cmdr Kyle Foster of the California Highway Patrol's Mount Shasta office told the Los Angeles Times.

A 45-mile (72-km) stretch of the I-5, a key north-south route through the entire state, has remained closed since then, requiring traffic detours of up to 120 miles (193 km), officials said.

A burned out truck sits along Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018.

CBS Sacramento reports fire officials were anxious the Redding fire would combine with another wildfire, the Hirz fire, which was burning about 10 miles away. Residents were issued an evacuation warning, urging them to be prepared to leave if the fire threatened.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said the fire seems to have slowed, but since it's burning about 15 miles from the city of Dunsmuir.

Also on Thursday, the director of the state's firefighting agency said in a letter to lawmakers that the agency only had about $11 million remaining in its annual budget and anticipates needing another $234 million to add firefighters and helicopters, and to cover other costs of fires expected later this year.

An up-to-date list of mandated evacuated areas is available, here.

The fire is located two miles north of Lakehead, California.

The underbrush is being removed with a combination of bulldozers and hand tools, as well as controlled burning operations, Captain Brandon Vaccaro, a spokesman for the Delta fire incident command, said.

According to fire managers at the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the Delta fire was initially reported as three fires shortly after noon on Wednesday.

Last night the fire blew up "pretty good", he said, but this morning it's been lying low with heavy smoke.

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

Sgt Alex Walker faced the heat of California's biggest fires: "It was close to unbearable".

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