Northern California wildfire threatens homes, closes major highway

LOS ANGELES, Sept 6 (Reuters) - An intense wildfire roared unchecked for a second day on Thursday through drought-desiccated timber in Northern California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest, threatening scores of homes and forcing the closure of an interstate highway after motorists had to flee their vehicles.

The Delta fire erupted on Wednesday in a canyon along the Sacramento River about 250 miles north of San Francisco and by Thursday morning had scorched more than 15,000 acres, triple the area that had burned some 12 hours earlier.

The blaze was near where the deadly Carr fire incinerated hundreds of dwellings in and around the town of Redding this summer. That fire claimed eight lives and became one of California's most destructive wildfires on record.

No casualties have been reported from the Delta fire but there were some close calls.

14 PHOTOS
Delta fire in Northern California near Shasta Trinity National Forest
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Delta fire in Northern California near Shasta Trinity National Forest
Fire surrounds an intersection during the Delta Fire in near Delta, California on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A burned home is seen during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter douses what's left of a burned vehicle left abandoned on interstate 5 after the Delta Fire tore through the region and jumped the road in Delta, south of Pollard Flat, California on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A partially melted bicycle is seen in front of a burned home during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke, fire and the Sacramento River fill a valley as the Delta Fire rages into the night near Delta, California on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A burned out truck sits along Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Caltrans workers assist in removing a burned out truck along Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
An abandoned burned out truck rests along interstate 5 after the Delta Fire tore through the region and jumped the road in Delta, south of Pollard Flat, California on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tow truck driver Justice Geib assists in removing a burned out truck from Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Fire trucks drive away from a burning hillside during the Delta Fire in Pollard Flat, California, on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A slab of melted aluminum is left among the ruins of a truck that burned along Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, California in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on September 6, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter sprays down a burned big rig truck that was abandoned along Interstate 5 as the Delta Fire tore through the region in Delta, California on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
An abandoned smoldering truck rests along interstate 5 after the Delta Fire tore through the region and jumped the road in Delta, south of Pollard Flat, California on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A fire vehicle passes by an abandoned burned out truck along interstate 5 after the Delta Fire tore through the region and jumped the road in Delta, California on September 5, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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On Wednesday, the blaze raced across the Interstate-5 highway, forcing motorists to flee on foot before flames engulfed their cars and trucks, said Brandon Vaccaro, a spokesman for the Delta fire command team.

Vaccaro said a 45-mile stretch of the key north-south route that runs the length of California remained closed in both directions, requiring motorists headed to Redding from the north to go 120 miles out of their way.

Flames posed an immediate threat to roughly 150 homes and other buildings in the sparsely populated region, with about 300 people under mandatory evacuation orders, Vaccaro said. Farther north, an evacuation warning was in effect for the picturesque town of Dunsmuir, advising some 1,600 residents to be ready to flee at a moment's notice.

The blaze has raged with the same extreme intensity seen in several devastating wildfires in recent months.

Fueled by drought-ravaged pine forests thick with dead and dying timber, flames spread quickly, torching entire trees and leaping from tree-top to tree-top while hurling showers of embers into more dried-out vegetation.

RELATED: Devastating images from California's Carr fire

25 PHOTOS
Devastating images from California's Carr fire
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Devastating images from California's Carr fire
Hills are bare after being burned in the Carr Fire near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
Smoke from the Carr Fire shrouds the Clear Creek Bridge near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
REDDING, CA - JULY 30: Forest burns in the Carr Fire on July 30, 2018 west of Redding, California. Six people have died in the massive fire, which has burned over 100,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate since it began on July 23. (Photo by Terray Sylvester/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Firefighter Shawn Lee (R) from the Lake Forest unit and his colleagues try to contain flames from the Carr fire as it spreads towards the town of Douglas City near Redding, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres (80,940 hectares) into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Crews from CalFire and the Whitewood Volunteer Fire Department battle a flare-up near Buckhorn, Calif., on Highway 299 during the Carr fire in Shasta-Trinity counties on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Fire fighter Wyatt Belden from Gold Ridge Fire Protection in Sonoma County, monitors a fire burning off Keck Road, just west of Lakeport, Calif., on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
A house burns during the Mendocino Complex fire near Finley, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. The worst blaze, northern California's Carr Fire, has killed six people since Thursday, including a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren aged four and five. They perished when flames swallowed their home in Redding. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A home continues to burn after the Carr Fire moved through the area on July 28, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A deer stands on a road covered with fire retardant as the Carr Fire burns in the area on July 28, 2018 near Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Trees burst into flame during the Carr fire near Whiskeytown, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Burned down vehicles sit at a property under a deep orange sky during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A motorcycle sits next to a home that was destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke from the Carr Fire hangs over Whiskeytown Lake on July 27, 2018 in Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A view of cars that were destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An inmate firefighter pauses during a firing operation as the Carr fire continues to burn in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One person has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A charred neighborhood destroyed by the Carr Fire is seen west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
REDDING, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: A home is destroyed by wildfire in Redding, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHASTA, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Dead fish lay in a pond water wildfire swept through and destroyed homes in Shasta, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Wildfire destroyed and sunk boats docked at the marina in Whiskeytown, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 28: A Cal Fire truck drives along highway 299 as the Carr Fire burns in the hills on July 28, 2018 neat Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and a bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A destroyed car is seen among the ruins of a burned neighborhood after the Carr fire passed through the area of Lake Keswick Estates near Redding, California on July 28, 2018. - The US federal government approved aid Saturday for California as thousands of firefighters battled to contain a series of deadly raging wildfires that have killed six people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke rises from the Carr Fire as it burns along highway 299 on July 27, 2018 near Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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"That's extremely difficult to get ahead of," Vaccaro told Reuters by phone.

As of Thursday, firefighters had been unable to achieve any containment of the blaze, Vaccaro said, but it is hoped that a forecast gradual rise in humidity levels will help slow the fire's growth over the next few days.

The Delta fire was one of about 15 blazes burning across California this week. Three times as much ground has burned in California so far this year than at the same point in 2017, which ranks as one of the most destructive seasons on record.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Editing by James Dalgleish)

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