California highway reopens after blaze forces 6-day closure


Associated Press

SHASTA-TRINITY NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. (AP) — A major interstate that connects Northern California to Oregon reopened Monday, six days after a wildfire roaring along the roadway forced its closure, authorities said.

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Denise Yergenson said one lane in each direction of Interstate 5 reopened Monday at 8:30 a.m. but with some restrictions and warned of slow traffic through the area.

Yergenson said vehicles carrying flammable materials, including hay, wood chips, lumber and logs, will not be allowed along a 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch between Antlers Bridge in Lakehead and Flume Creek Road south of the city of Dunsmuir, California.

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

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

Officials have determined that the freeway is safe for travel but potential closures could be ordered at any time because the fire is still burning. The stretch of highway will open to through traffic and ramps will remain closed, she said.

The blaze has chewed 64-square-miles (165-square-kilometers) of timber and brush in and around Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It was 5 percent contained as of Monday.

The highway closure forced trucks and other traffic on smaller, curvy roads that added 100 miles (160 kilometers) or between six and eight hours to their journeys in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The fire was just the latest of several enormous fires that have ravaged the area in Northern California this summer. In fact, the fire was moving into an area already burned by a larger blaze burning in oak woodlands. That blaze was 95 percent contained.

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

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