A fast-moving blaze north of Redding that shuttered a major highway indefinitely and forced the evacuation of several small mountain communities has charred more than 15,000 acres in less than 24 hours, authorities said Thursday.
The Delta fire has chewed through 15,294 acres of timber and dense brush in an area with no recent fire history in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The wildfire was initially reported as three fires Wednesday afternoon north of Lakehead — a community of about 500 people near the Vollmers exit on Interstate 5 — but merged into one fire and spread rapidly. At one point, the blaze burned up to one mile per hour.
Firefighters faced challenges managing the flames overnight as extremely dry brush in the region and low humidity worked against them. Usually, thanks to cooler temperatures and humidity, wildfires slow their progress overnight. With embers flying, firefighters had to deal with spot fires popping up throughout the area. Fire crews on the front lines were met with 300-foot flames.
The fire’s quick growth also was fueled partly by warm weather and winds, and officials are not anticipating much relief Thursday. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-90s in areas where the fire is burning, and winds with gusts in the 15 to 20 mph range are expected through the afternoon.
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