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Firefighters make progress on massive Delta fire in Northern California

Firefighters make progress on massive Delta fire in Northern California
Firefighters monitor the Delta fire along Interstate 5 north of Redding on Sept. 7. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters have gained ground on a massive wildfire that had shut down Interstate 5 in Shasta County, aided by lower temperatures and higher humidity, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

About 17 structures are known to have been destroyed by the 60,000 acre Delta fire, which not only closed the major artery but terrorized fleeing motorists last week. But Suzanne Flory, a spokeswoman for the forest service, said there has been progress — thanks to Mother Nature.

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“We had some favorable conditions to get some work done on the ground,” which has allowed firefighters to add containment lines in priority zones, Flory said. The fire was 28% contained as of Friday morning. Evacuation orders are still in effect, though some have been lifted.

“The biggest increases in containment have occurred in the last several days,” Flory said.

Last week, flames jumped Interstate 5, trapping motorists and creating an eerie scene of charred big rigs and cars abandoned by their drivers. The freeway closed for several days and reopened Monday.

A 15-mile stretch of the interstate closed again Thursday as firefighters were tackling fire activity in the area, but it reopened after just two hours, Flory said.

“People are very understanding, so we were able to get resources on that area quickly and have the firefighters working on that aggressively enough that they were open the highway in short amount of time,” she said.

This part of Northern California has been hard hit by wildfire recently. The Hirz fire to the east, which joined with the Delta fire, grew to 46,150 acres before it was completely contained. In July, the Carr fire, which started in the same cluster as the Delta and Hirz fires, grew to 229,651 acres. Three firefighters died and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed in that blaze.

Despite the progress on the Delta fire, firefighters aren’t letting their guard down. Starting Friday, winds are expected to pick up and the weather will be warmer and drier, Flory said. The Forest Service is estimating that the Delta fire will reach full containment in late September.

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