The Delta Fire burning in Shasta County raged out of control for a second day after bursting in size Wednesday evening, continuing to close a large stretch of Interstate 5 in both directions, U.S. Forest Service officials reported Thursday.
The fire grew “aggressively” overnight, with “flame lengths estimated at 300 feet high,” according to a 9 a.m. incident update by the U.S. Forest Service.
Burning north of Lakehead and about 10 miles from Redding, the Delta Fire started about 1 p.m. Wednesday and exploded to 15,000 acres by midnight, consuming bush and timber at a “critical rate of spread,” Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokesman Joe Orosz said.
By Thursday evening the fire had grown to 22,000 acres, or 34 square miles; containment figures were not released by the Forest Service.
Evacuations were ordered for the areas along the I-5 corridor on both sides, between Lamoine up to the Shasta-Siskiyou county line, and all residents of Dunsmuir.
An evacuation center has been established at the Mt. Shasta Community Center, 629 Alder St. The Mount Shasta Humane Society is accepting small animals of evacuees, at 1208 North Mount Shasta Blvd.
Source: National Interagency Fire Center
Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokesman Chris Losi said about 300 civilians have been evacuated and at least 300 structures are threatened, including 150 residences.
“There’s not a lot of people there normally, and a lot were evacuated, so that’s good,” Losi said.
The fire closed I-5 from 10 miles north of Redding at Fawndale Road to five miles south of Mount Shasta at Mott Road, Caltrans said Wednesday – a stretch of nearly 50 miles that is still closed as the fire continues to grow.
CHP officer Jason Morton said the only alternate route around the closure is taking motorists up to eight hours to navigate. Morton said the 140-mile detour on Highway 299 to Route 89 has been bumper-to-bumper the entire route.
He said the winding, mountain roads funnel to one lane each way at many points, and traffic often slows to 1 mph.
Morton said officials will reassess the safety of reopening Interstate 5 on Friday morning.
Additional, up-to-date information on road closures in Trinity County can be found via the county’s department of transportation Twitter feed.
Media reports and videos posted to social media show that more than a dozen big rigs were abandoned along the freeway Wednesday. Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Foster of the California Highway Patrol’s Mount Shasta office told the Los Angeles Times that at least four had caught fire Wednesday.
A U.S. Forest Service incident report said high temperatures and midday gusts of 15 to 20 mph were expected Thursday. Smoke from the fire was expected to spread through Northern California.
Fire officials have indicated that the Delta Fire is human-caused, but did not give further details.
California Interagency Incident Management Team 5 is managing the Delta Fire, as well as the Hirz Fire, burning about three miles away.
The Hirz Fire, is 46,150 acres and 75 percent contained, the Forest Service said Thursday morning.
Satellite images and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District indicate that most smoke from the Delta and Hirz fires was blowing in the direction of Oregon as of Thursday afternoon.
The Carr Fire, which killed eight people and devastated parts of Shasta County in the Redding area, reached 100 percent containment just a week earlier, on Aug. 30.
Dramatic images of the Delta Fire show it raging just feet from the interstate, as well as nearby hills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.