Published: Tue, September 11, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

California wildfire that closed key highway doubles in size

California wildfire that closed key highway doubles in size

The unrelenting flames have drained California's firefighting budget and prompted almost a billion dollars in property claims even before the start of the unsafe autumn fire season, officials said.

Fire spokesman Brandon Vacarro says work crews have cleared away burned and abandoned trucks that littered the road after the swift-moving blaze erupted but they must also determine whether charred 70-foot (21-meter) trees along the road are in danger of falling. There were some reports that homes had burned but he could only confirm that an outbuilding and two mixed-use commercial and residential buildings had been damaged.

He said that while the New Zealanders were packing up to come home, a fire had started up in between two other blazes the crews had just managed to bring under control.

Two "soft closures" have been established in areas of the blaze, now 5 percent contained, affecting the communities of Lakehead and Dunsmuir with certain conditions but the interagency fire management team notes that "visitors and tourists will not be granted access".

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Patience was running thin at the Pilot Travel Center in the town of Weed, near the northern end of the closure. Parked big rigs lined the roads surrounding the facility.

Firefighters are working to strengthen and improve a control line on Middle Ridge, which will offer an opportunity to conduct defensive back burning operations and hold the fire from spreading further north along the Interstate 5 corridor. "A lot of the truckers are upset".

A crew of 34 firefighters have touched down in New Zealand after spending nearly six weeks battling wildfires in California.

The blaze comes as the area is already grappling with the destruction and trauma from the devastating Carr Fire, which burned over 1,000 homes and led to the deaths of eight people this summer.

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Victims have filed more than 10,000 insurance claims so far, totaling $845 million. Planes and helicopters were also dumping water on the flames. Among the immediate challenges is the Delta Fire in northern California.

The Legislature budgets for firefighting costs based on historical averages.

The Delta Fire was zero percent contained on September 8, and officials closed sections of I-5 to traffic in both directions, warning that the fire posed a significant risk to residents in the area.

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