By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOSANGELES (Reuters) – A wildfire erupted in forest land in Northern California on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of dozens of homes and the closure of a stretch of an interstate highway near where a deadly blaze broke out in July, officials said.
The Delta Fire was burning in timber and brush in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in a canyon along the Sacramento River.
It was near the site of the Carr Fire, which led to eight deaths and destroyed hundreds of homes in the city of Redding and nearby areas.
Wildfires in California have scorched far more ground this year than in 2017, one of the most destructive in the state’s history.
So far, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to 4,587 fires that have destroyed 613,710 acres (248,359 hectares), compared with 4,425 fires that destroyed 233,936 acres (94,671 hectares) through the same period in 2017, according to figures from the agency
The latest fire spread to at least 500 acres (202 hectares) by Wednesday afternoon, forcing the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office to evacuate residents along a stretch of Interstate 5 north of the town of Lakehead to the Siskiyou County line, according to the government wildfire tracking website Inciweb.
“It’s not in the middle of a town, but there are some rural residences” in the area, Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokeswoman Carol Underhill said.
A representative from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office could no immediately be reached for comment.
The Delta Fire was burning on both sides of Interstate 5, which has made it more difficult to control the flames, Underhill said. The highway has been closed in both directions in that area.
Photos posted online by the U.S. Forest Service showed bright orange flames in a forest just beyond a truck on a highway, and broad columns of white smoke rising above forests.
The fire broke out near an exit from Interstate 5, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Redding. Its cause was under investigation.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)