The massive Delta fire that forced the shutdown of a stretch of Interstate 5 in Northern California last week continues to grow, and the major north-south artery is expected to remain closed indefinitely, authorities said.
As of Sunday morning, the fire had burned 40, 903 acres, increasing by an additional 4,000 acres overnight, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuations for residents along the Interstate 5 corridor north of Redding.
“Each day fires resurface along the interstate making it unsafe for vehicular travel which necessitates its continued closure,” the agency said in a statement.
The northbound portion of the highway remains closed at Riverview Drive and the southbound lanes at Flume Creek Road. Only emergency vehicles, utility company staff repairing critical infrastructure, and timber land employees assisting with fire mitigation efforts are allowed through.
More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, according to Cal Fire officials.
Two single-family residences have been destroyed by the fire, as well as two combination residential and commercial buildings, Capt. Brandon Vaccaro, a media spokesman for Cal Fire, said Saturday. Mandatory evacuations were issued in Shasta County and Trinity County, and evacuation warnings have been given to the community of Dunsmuir.
Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and other management organizations have been meeting daily to determine when it will be safe to open the freeway, Vaccaro said.
“Opening the freeway is our top priority, but it needs to be safe to do so,” he said.
The Delta fire started Sept. 5 about 1 pm. Investigators are still not certain what sparked it, but they say it was definitely human caused.
From the very start, the fire’s behavior has been extreme. Motorists trapped on the freeway described towering flames up to 300 feet high.
So far, there have been no fatalities.
Weather conditions appeared to be more favorable to firefighters on Saturday than before, Vaccaro said.
Daytime temperatures were lower and the humidity was a bit higher. Vaccaro said the humidity overnight was expected to be high enough to form dew. That could result in less extreme fire behavior and allow fire crews to make more headway, he said.