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Interstate 5 Reopens After California Blaze Forces Closure

Embers fly above a firefighter as he works to control a backfire as the Delta...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Embers fly above a firefighter as he works to control a backfire as the Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

A major interstate that connects California and Oregon reopened Monday after a wildfire roared along the roadway and forced a six-day closure while burned trees and charred vehicles were removed.

One lane in each direction of Interstate 5 near the Oregon border was reopened with restrictions and warnings of slow traffic, California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Denise Yergenson said.

With the fire still burning, vehicles carrying flammable materials, including hay, wood chips, lumber and logs, will not be allowed along the 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

"Motorists should anticipate long lines of vehicles and long delays," Yergenson said.

The stretch of highway that traverses the West Coast from Mexico to Canada and serves as a main artery for commerce had been closed since Wednesday, when a wall of flames descended from hills along the highway and forced motorists to abandon trucks and cars.

Officials have determined that the freeway is safe for travel, but potential closures could be ordered at any time. Access ramps along the stretch remained closed.

The blaze has chewed through 64 square miles (165 square kilometers) of timber and brush. It was 5 percent contained Monday. The blaze was human-caused, officials said, without indicating whether it was arson or an accident.

The highway closure forced trucks and other traffic to take smaller, winding roads that added 100 miles (160 kilometers) and as long as eight hours to trips in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

It was the latest of several major fires that have ravaged the area this summer. The current fire was moving into an area that previously burned.

The wildfire also was close to the scene of a massive blaze that killed eight people and burned about 1,100 homes before it was contained last month.

In Napa County, California fire officials lifted all mandatory orders for a blaze that ignited over the weekend and had threatened 180 homes.

Residents of the rural area can return home but should remain vigilant, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Monday.

The 4-square-mile (10-square kilometer) blaze began Saturday in the Napa County woodlands, but cooling weather helped fire crews slow its growth. The fire is 30 percent contained.

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