Wildfire threat keeps California highway closed Sunday

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A highway running the length of California remained closed for a fifth day Sunday near the Oregon border as a wildfire smothered rural forestlands in smoke and flame.

Officials were trying to determine whether it was safe to reopen a 45-mile (72-kilometer) section of Interstate 5 north of Redding. The fire has destroyed thousands of trees — some 70 feet (20 meters) tall — that could fall onto the highway that runs from Mexico to Canada and serves as a main artery for commerce.

Trucks and other traffic were using a smaller road that has added 100 miles (160 kilometers) or more and up to eight hours to the journey.

The stretch of highway closed Wednesday as flames flanked the roadway and left the roadway littered with burnt and abandoned trucks.

Although the wrecks have been cleared, the 41,000-acre (16,600-hectare) fire remained a threat as it chewed through timber and brush in and around Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The blaze had devoured 63.9 square miles (165½ square kilometers) and was only 5 percent contained.

Meanwhile to the south, another fire that began Saturday in remote Napa County woodlands prompted evacuations and threatened about 180 homes. The Snell Fire was only 10 percent contained.

The Delta Fire was just the latest of several enormous fires that have ravaged the north area in recent weeks. In fact, the fire was moving into an area already burned by a larger blaze called the Hirz Fire. That blaze, burning in oak woodlands, was 95 percent contained.

The Delta blaze also was close to the Carr Fire, which killed eight people and burned about 1,100 homes before it was contained last month. That blaze and another in the Mendocino area — the two largest wildfires in the state this year — destroyed or damaged 8,800 homes and 329 businesses.

The Mendocino fire was expected to be fully contained by Sunday, more than six weeks after it started, officials said.

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