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LAKEHEAD, Calif. — Despite a harrowing day that saw authorities close I-5 once more as flames encroached on the roadway, fire officials say that "aggressive" efforts throughout the day allowed them to raise containment on the Delta Fire to 28 percent.
The Delta Fire now covers 60,018 acres, according to an estimate from Friday morning.
Thursday's temporary I-5 closure, which lasted about three hours, has not affected the loosened restrictions announced earlier this week. The freeway remains open with "limited traffic control" between Redding and Mt. Shasta, and no sustained lane closures. All truck load restrictions have been lifted, but ramp closures remain in effect at Sims Rd and Gibson Rd.
Fire officials say that their control lines held on the west and north edges of the fire, and crews have begun mop-up along those flanks. Preparations are still underway at the fire's northeastern flank, where crews have completed hand and dozer lines around the Slate Creek and Shotgun areas.
The fire near I-5 reportedly happened "within control lines" on the east side of the freeway between Sims Rd and Gibson Rd, and the closure happened once the fire grew close. A flurry of helicopter water drops extinguished the 20-acre area, allowing authorities to re-open the freeway.
Throughout Friday, firefighters plan to continue the construction of fireline along the fire's edge between Hazel Creek and Sims Flat on the east side of I-5. Fire officials say that travelers on the freeway may see smoke or firefighting operations between Gibson and Sims roads.
Meanwhile, firefighters will continue constructing lines near Damnation Peak along Sanford Road to tie in the fire's southern flank. Crews will also be monitoring a "small area of activity" seen overnight on the fire's southeastern edge near Rabbit Flat.
Fire meteorologists expect weather conditions to be favorable for firefighting efforts on the west and north edges of the fire where they continue mop-up operations to strengthen control lines.
Fire officials say that they will have fifteen helicopters in the air, as conditions allow, for attacks wherever they are needed.
Mandatory evacuations have been lifted and residents are being allowed to return home in the following areas: Delta Rd, La Moine Rd, Delta School Rd, Pollard Flat area, Slate Creek Rd, Little Slate Creek Rd, Eagles Roost Rd, Eviesbrood Rd and Coyote Pass Rd. These areas are open to residents only, and authorities will require documentation to verify residency.
The following areas will remain under mandatory evacuations: Dog Creek Rd, Sugarloaf Lookout Rd, Saylor Rd, Harr Ridge Rd, McCall Creek Rd, Cavanaugh Canyon Rd, Fenders Ferry Rd, Highland Lakes Rd, Campbell Creek Rd, Rivera Dr, Karwin Dr, Nighthawk Ln, Shotgun Creek Rd, Upper Shotgun #1 and #2 Roads, Mears Ridge Rd, Sims Rd, Sims Lookout Rd, Hazel Creek Rd and Girard Ridge Rd.
Shelters for those displaced by the fire have continued to change, with one remaining at the National Guard Armory in Mount Shasta, and another now open at Mercy Oaks in Redding. Both sites are operated by the Red Cross and will be open as needed.
The Delta Fire started on September 5 near the Vollmers exit on I-5, toward the north end of Shasta County, California. Flames raced down toward the roadway faster than authorities could close down the freeway to traffic—leaving some travelers stranded in the middle, or forcing them to run a gauntlet of flames.
Several semi-trucks had to be abandoned by their drivers. The remnants of those trucks were found melted into the roadway after the fired had passed over.