Evening Express

California highway reopens after wildfire forces six-day closure

A major road that connects northern California to Oregon has reopened, six days after a wildfire roaring along the route forced its closure, authorities said.

California Department of Transportation said one lane in each direction of Interstate 5 reopened at 8.30am with restrictions, and warned of slow traffic through the area.

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

“Motorists should anticipate long lines of vehicles and long delays,” she said.

The highway that traces 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 a wall of flames descended from hills along the road.

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 burned through 64 square miles of timber and brush in and around Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It was 5% contained as of Monday.

Firefighters put out a grass fire along I5 (Hung T Vu/Record Searchlight/AP)

The road closure forced trucks and other traffic on to smaller winding roads that added 100 miles or six to eight hours to journeys in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The fire was the latest of several enormous blazes that have ravaged the area in northern California this summer. It is moving into an area already burned by a larger blaze in oak woodlands. That blaze is 95% contained.

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