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California Delta fire shuts down busy highway after it triples in size

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Delta Fire disables the I-5 in California

16 new fires are burning in northern California. William La Jeunesse has the story.

One of America’s busiest highways closed as firefighters in California battle a blaze, just south of the Oregon border, stranding hundreds of truckers trying to navigate the lonely highway stretches from Mexico to Canada.

At 24,000 acres, the so-called Delta fire near Redding tripled in size Thursday, but slowed overnight as the weather conditions improved, and officials doubled manpower and helicopters available to fight the fire.

“It’s been a long summer, it is a long, long struggle,” a weary firefighter told a local Fox affiliate. “Yes, we have been everywhere from the Carr to the Wellback to the Mendocino Complex, now we’re here.”

Firefighters light backfire while the battle of the Delta Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The fire is 0% contained and is currently the Number 1 national priority in the lower 48 states. Burning in the Shasta National Forest, the area is not densely populated, but the fire forced the closure of California’s I-5, which runs from Tijuana to Vancouver, the transfer of millions of tons of freight per day under the NAFTA countries and China through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“The north state has had so many fires, we have many more closings and detours,” said the driver, Michael Tunget.

The human-caused fire exploded around noon Wednesday, and immediately took out the highway. If traffic is crawling or stopped, some truckers had their rigs, not able to run. Several 18-wheelers were burned to the ground.

Police at that time is closed to a 45-km near the Oregon border, grounding a lot of trucks – but others chose a 140 km detour along a winding road.

Firefighters light backfire while the battle of the Delta Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“A two-lane highway,” said trucker Jerry Foster. “The curves and hills and trees and it’s dark and it’s like my wife told me you are going to a lot of company.”

This is not a brush fire. The fire is burning in steep terrain at 8,000 meters altitude, in a thick wood of the forest that have not burned for decades. The U. S. Forest Service and Calfire manpower doubled to 1,200 fire fighters and have no idea when they get the upper hand, but the weather is due to improve this weekend. Officials are optimistic.

“We have the direct suppression of the fire, and we have indirect suppression of the fire, so that’s where we’re building the rules,” said forest service spokesman Mark Thibideu. “Directly would be right next to the fire’s edge. With one foot in the black, as we say.”

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