Wildfire keeps major California highway closed for third day

The US Forest Service said the blaze around Interstate 5 is now covering 38 square miles.

Embers fly above a firefighter (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Embers fly above a firefighter (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A blaze that shut down a major highway and is burning out of control through timber and brush in northern California grew overnight.

The US Forest Service said the blaze is now covering 38 square miles, up from 34 square miles on Thursday night.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Morton said the blaze is 0% contained and still burning along Interstate 5.

The highway that runs between Mexico and Canada, and is the main thoroughfare for commercial trucks, is closed for a third day and officials are meeting to assess whether it can reopen.

A scorched car in a clearing after the Delta Fire burned through the Lamoine community (Noah Berger/AP)

It was a ghost road on Friday morning along a 45-mile stretch that has remained closed since a fire two days earlier swept down and turned hills on either side into walls of flame.

Drivers fled in terror and several big rigs burned on Wednesday as the fire erupted on both sides of the route.

Crews managed to remove the burned hulks and abandoned rigs on Thursday but flames continued to burn along the edge of the road in some areas, fire spokesman Brandon Vacarro said.

The fire prompted evacuation orders for scattered homes and buildings in three counties in and around the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. At times, flames shot up 300ft high.

Although the fire was not burning near any large towns, Mr Vacarro said about 280 homes were considered threatened. There were some reports that homes had burned but he could only confirm that an outbuilding and two mixed-use commercial and residential buildings had been damaged.

Truckers who rely heavily on the I5 to transport timber and other goods along the West Coast had the unenviable choice of waiting or taking a jammed detour that added 115 miles or so to their journeys.

California has been hit with one massive blaze after another over the summer, including a blaze not far from the Delta Fire that last month burned about 1,100 homes and killed eight people.

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The unrelenting flames have drained California’s firefighting budget and prompted nearly a billion dollars in property claims even before the start of the dangerous autumn fire season, officials said.

Press Association

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