SHASTA-TRINITY NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. (CBS SF/AP) — Along a section of California’s busy I-5 freeway Thursday, crews removed the burned out remains of several big rigs that fell prey to the destructive blast of the Delta Fire.
The major artery of California’s spine remained closed as firefighters battled the latest wildfire to erupt during one of the state’s most destructive fire season in its history.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Foster of the California Highway Patrol’s Mount Shasta office, About 17 big-rigs were abandoned along the interstate and at least four caught fire. Two were turned into twisted piles of melted metal.
In a video, a passenger in a vehicle traveling on I-5 screams: “Oh my God, I want to go!” as nearby trees burst into flames.
“I can’t breathe,” the woman says, sobbing. “Please, guys, come put it out.”
The blaze has blackened 23 square miles (60 square kilometers), prompting mandatory evacuations. It was moving rapidly but was still far from any large towns.
The fire erupted Wednesday afternoon in a rural area and devoured timber and brush on both sides of Interstate 5 as it nearly tripled in size to 15,294 acres overnight, officials said Thursday.
The blaze also delayed Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train service between Sacramento and Oregon.
Chris Losi, a spokesman for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, said rural homes and cabins in and around the forest were under evacuation orders, from the community Lakehead north to the Siskiyou County line.
“It isn’t a lot of people,” he said.
The fire was showing “critical” behavior — burning fiercely and moving rapidly — but was still far away from any large towns, he added.
Meanwhile, California’s insurance commissioner said Thursday that victims of Carr Fire that devastated Redding and one in the Mendocino area — the two largest blazes in the state so far this year — have filed more than 10,000 claims so far totaling $845 million.
The two fires destroyed or damaged a combined 8,800 homes and 329 businesses.
“The worst may be yet to come,” Commissioner David Jones warned at a San Francisco news conference, noting that California wildfires are typically more destructive after Sept. 1.
California’s firefighting agency is about to exceed its budget and needs $234 million more, Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said in a letter to lawmakers Thursday.
The agency spent $432 million through the end of August and had only about $11 million left, Pimlott wrote. Cal Fire would use some of the money to add firefighters and helicopters, he said.
The Legislature budgets for firefighting based on the historical average costs. Cal Fire has requested extra money in seven of the past 10 years, but never this early, according to the Department of Finance.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.