Traffic was moving slowly but smoothly up and down Interstate 5 in Northern California Monday after transportation officials reopened portions of the vital West Coast link closed by the Delta fire.
Traffic started flowing again between Redding and Mount Shasta Monday morning, with one lane in each direction through the 17 miles traversing the Delta fire, which was listed Monday at 47,100 acres. The fire was just 5 percent contained, fire officials said.
The 45-mile stretch of I-5 between Redding and Mount Shasta had been closed since shortly after the human-caused blaze roared to life last Wednesday two miles north of Lakehead, California, just north of Lake Shasta.
“It’s normal traffic,” fire spokeswoman Lia Parker said. “I’m actually looking down on I-5 and it’s running normal.”
In some of the fire areas the posted speed limit was 25 mph, but Parker said she’d seen cars going up to 50 mph through the restricted stretch. The public was using the right northbound and southbound lanes while the left lanes were reserved for firefighters and other emergency traffic, she said.
No accidents were reported as of 3 p.m., Parker said.
Vehicles were allowed back on the interstate after bridges and other infrastructure were inspected for fire-related damage.
Vehicles carrying flammable materials ranging from hay to gasoline (excluding the fuel in their own tanks) remained banned from traveling through the fire area, according to CalTrans.
The Delta fire and the nearby 46,150-acre Hirz fire merged Sunday, and a California incident-management team on the Hirz fire took over operations for fighting both blazes.
The Hirz fire, which ignited Aug. 9, was listed Monday morning at 95 percent contained, with fire crews focusing on mop-up duties and strengthening fire lines. Like the Delta fire, it was human-caused.
The Delta fire grew slowly overnight Sunday, thanks in part to shade created by smoke and an air inversion, while firefighters continued to protect structures in the fire’s southeast area, fire officials said.
Headwinds helped push the fire to the north and northeast, while flames crossed a contingency line cut during the earlier Carr fire to the southwest, fire officials said. The Carr fire was contained Aug. 30.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters and support people are assigned to the fire, which has an estimated containment date of Sept. 22.
Elsewhere, the 130,258-acre Klondike fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness near Selma is 51 percent contained. Bear Camp Road was closed Saturday to all non-fire traffic from the intersection with Merlin-Galice Road west to the intersection with Forest Service Road 33 near Agness. However, on Monday fire crews opened traffic for vehicles servicing people floating the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River as well as for residents of Agness.