(CN) – A massive wildfire forced the closure of Interstate 5 in Northern California on Thursday after tripling in size overnight.
The Delta Fire grew from 5,000 acres on Wednesday to 15,294 acres as of Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
On Wednesday, drivers on Interstate 5 fled their vehicles as flames burned along the road and through the Shasta National Forest. Officials do not know when they will reopen the interstate, as burned-out big rigs need to be removed.
Shasta County residents along the highway have been ordered to evacuate as dense vegetation and timber burn along and a large plume of smoke billows up into the sky.
According to the Record Searchlight in Redding, trees burning along the highway are in danger of falling over. “We are trying to get in there right now to assess the damage and safety concerns,” Caltrans spokeswoman Denise Yergenson told the newspaper.
Fire officials say the wildfire was caused by human action. A few miles to the west, another blaze sparked by humans – the Hirz Fire – has charred 46,150 acres and is about 75 percent contained, according to forest officials.
The dual fires darken the Northern California sky less than a month after the devastating Carr Fire burned 229,651 acres north of Redding, destroying more than 1,000 homes. Eight people were killed as a result of that blaze, including firefighters and residents trapped in their homes.
Car trouble in dry vegetation sparked that blaze, according to fire officials.
According to the Cal Fire, 17 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in terms of buildings destroyed have occurred in the last year.
The state Insurance Commissioner’s Office said insured residential and commercial loses from the Carr and the Mendocino Complex Fire burning near Clear Lake top $845 million. Between them, the wildfires damaged or destroyed more than 8,800 homes, 329 businesses, 800 private autos, commercial vehicles and other types of property – over 10,000 claims in all, according to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
“The Carr and Mendocino Complex fires not only caused staggering losses to thousands of Californians, they devastated entire communities and tragically cost many people their lives, and were among the most destructive fires in our state’s history,” Jones said in a statement.
“We should remember that the vast majority of California’s most destructive fires occurred after September 1st, and fire experts tell us that the worst fires for 2018 may still be ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, Cal Fire says it’s close to running out of money and asked the Legislature for an additional $234 million on Thursday according to news reports.
Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said in a letter to the Legislature that the agency spent $432 million through the end of August and has about $11 million left in reserves.