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Fire roaring through Northern California triples in size

Published:Friday | September 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Fire trucks pass the Delta Fire burning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Parked trucks lined more than two miles of Interstate 5 as both directions remained closed to traffic. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

REDDING, California (AP):

An explosive wildfire that closed down dozens of miles of a major California freeway nearly tripled in size overnight, just weeks after a nearby blaze that left neighbourhoods in ruins and killed eight people, officials said Thursday.

The fire that erupted Wednesday afternoon and devoured timber and brush on both sides of Interstate 5 near the Oregon state line had expanded to 23 square miles (60 square kilometres) on Thursday, prompting mandatory evacuations, the US Forest Service said in a statement. That's up from eight square miles (21 square kilometres) burning on Wednesday

Authorities did not say in the statement how many people were affected by the evacuation order, but the fire is in a rural area with scattered homes.

The blaze was human-caused, fire officials said, but they didn't indicate whether it was arson or accident.

Truckers abandoned their vehicles on Wednesday as flames roared up hillsides. In a video, a passenger in a vehicle screams: "Oh my God, I want to go!" as trees burst into flames and sheets of fire roiled on the side of the roadway.

About 17 big rigs were abandoned and at least four caught fire, Lt Cmdr Kyle Foster of the California Highway Patrol's Mount Shasta office told the Los Angeles Times.

US Forest Service workers helped the driver of one flaming truck to safety and other truckers, firefighters and others aided more drivers, he said.