California is taking a financial wallop from unrelenting wildfires that have drained its firefighting budget and prompted almost $1 billion in property claims even before the start of the unsafe fall fire season, officials said Thursday.
Firefighters battled on Saturday to outflank a wildfire that has forced the closure of an interstate highway in Northern California as the blaze swept through explosively dry mountain timber in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for a fourth day.
Fire officials say they don't expect to have containment of the fire, which started on Wednesday, until at least September 22.
It is the same area where the Carr Fire broke out in late July, destroying hundreds of homes and killing three firefighters.
Officials said the blaze was human-caused but they didn't indicate whether it was arson or accident.
Footage posted by KRCR-TV of Redding showed roaring flames and plumes of dark smoke as some trucks and cars were left abandoned on the side of Interstate 5.
About 17 big-rigs were abandoned along the interstate and at least four caught fire, Lt. Cmdr.
The disclosures came as a roaring blaze in a rural area near the OR state line closed 45 miles (72 kilometers) of heavily traveled Interstate 5, the main highway from Mexico to Canada.
The fire shut down miles of Interstate 5 and there was no immediate word on when it would reopen.
The agency's website now recognizes 17 major wildfires burning across the state, with just one fully contained. Residents were urged to be prepared to leave if the fire threatened.
The area includes about 25 homes, and the fire is about a mile away from the main group of structures and a little over a mile from Alpen Cellars, he said.
Officials must first determine if it's safe to resume travel on a 45-mile (72-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 5 near the OR state line.
Authorities closed a major highway and issued evacuation orders to areas in the path of the expanding conflagration.
As of Thursday morning, the Ranch Fire has burned 410,203 acres and is 98 percent contained; the River Fire has burned 48,920 acres and is fully contained, according to the Mendocino National Forest service, which has taken over full command of the Ranch Fire.
A call to the information number for the Delta fire was answered by a recording that the call could not be completed due to network emergencies.
Either way, by Wednesday evening the fire had consumed nearly 8 square miles of forest on either side of I-5, growing so close to the interstate that truckers and motorists alike began abandoning their vehicles and fleeing the area on foot, reported Fox News.
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.
The Delta Fire started Wednesday and had expanded to 22,000 acres by Friday morning.
The Delta Fire was just reported on September 5 at almost 1 p.m. near the Vollmers exit on I-5 north of Lakehead, California.
He kept driving, with fire lapping at both sides of the highway and burning ash falling all around him.