An explosive wildfire has closed down a large section of a major California road only weeks after a nearby blaze that killed eight people.
The Delta Fire erupted on Wednesday afternoon and within hours had burned nearly eight square miles of timber and brush on both sides of Interstate 5 near the Oregon border.
The blaze was caused by people, fire officials said, but they did not indicate whether it was arson or an accident.
Lorry drivers abandoned their vehicles as flames roared up hillsides. In a video, a passenger in a vehicle screams: “Oh my God, I want to go!” as trees burst into flames and sheets of fire were seen on either side of the road.
About 17 lorries were abandoned and at least four caught fire, a fire service spokesman said.
US Forest Service workers helped the driver of one burning truck to safety and other truckers and firefighters assisted other motorists.
“There’s vehicles scattered all over,” Brandon Vaccaro, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said. “Whatever occurred here was probably pretty ugly for a while.”
About 45 miles of the I-5 were closed in both directions. The blaze also delayed Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service between Sacramento and Oregon.
Scattered rural homes and cabins in and around the forest were under evacuation orders, from the community Lakehead north to the Siskiyou County line, the fire service spokesman said.
The fire was showing “critical’ behaviour — burning fiercely and moving rapidly — but was still far away from any large towns, he added.
The city of Dunsmuir, with about 1,500 people, was about 15 miles from the fire. Residents were issued an evacuation warning, urging them to be prepared to leave if the fire threatened.
A nearby fire in the Redding area burned about 1,100 homes and killed eight people last month. It was only fully contained last week.