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Brush fire closes I-5 as extreme heat wave grips California

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A major highway in Southern California was closed on Wednesday after a wildfire broke out and grew rapidly during the first day of an extreme heat wave, officials said.

No structures were destroyed in the Route Fire near Castaic, north of Los Angeles, by Wednesday night, but the fire covered more than 4,600 acres and Interstate 5 was closed in both directions.

The fire broke out east of I-5 around noon, Los Angeles County Fire Captain Sheila Kelliher Berkoh said, and it happened as most of California was warned of extreme heat. No inclusion was reported.

Temperatures of 109 degrees were measured in the area shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

“We’re really on the first day of a period of about nine to 10 days of pretty extreme heat,” Los Angeles County deputy fire chief Tom Ewald said at a news conference.

“If you can imagine wearing heavy fire equipment, carrying backpacks, dragging a hose, wielding tools — the people out there are just getting spanked,” he said.

Eight firefighters suffered heat-related injuries and six were taken to hospitals, Ewald said. Their condition is good.

More than 350 firefighters from Los Angeles County and the US Forest Service, as well as 15 planes, were putting out the fire on Wednesday, Kelliher Berkoh said.

Between 100 and 200 homes were evacuated, Lt. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Brandon Barclay.

Officials couldn’t say when I-5, a major route between Los Angeles and northern communities like Bakersfield, would reopen, but inspections were underway.

“We hope it will be relatively soon,” said Capt. Ed Krusey of the California Highway Patrol. “We still need to check it for structural problems.”

Northbound traffic was diverted near the fire on Wednesday.

More than 35 million people were warned Wednesday of extreme heat in the West and Southwest and in most of California, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona, according to the weather service.

Another Southern California fire, the Border 32 Fire, led to the closure of the Tecate Border Crossing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

The San Diego County fire, which started shortly after 2 p.m., had burned more than 4,200 acres and was 5% under control by 10 p.m. said. More than 400 houses were under evacuation orders, emergency services said.

Southern California’s potentially record-breaking heat wave is expected to last through next week, according to the weather service.


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