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Rain hampering effort to contain smoldering California fire

by by Jim Schultz, Redding Record-Searchlight |

Rain is continuing to drown the 63,293-acre Delta Fire north of Lake Shasta in Northern California, but it's also making it difficult for firefighters to get a containment line around it.

Containment remained Thursday at 97 percent with firefighters now expecting the fire won't be fully contained until Monday.

It had been hoped containment would have been made by Friday night.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Murphy said Thursday the rain has reduced the Delta Fire, as well as the Hirz Fire, to little more than smoldering and creeping in sheltered areas.

But, she said, the wet weather is making it difficult for firefighters to get a containment line around it due to the slick and muddy conditions.

She said between one-quarter to three-quarters-of-an inch of rain fell on the fire Wednesday with more already falling Thursday.
It's also expected to get near freezing that night, she said.

Although the fire is pretty much done with, Murphy said tree stumps and downed logs are continuing to produce smoke and that smoldering has the potential to flare up again if conditions become warm and dry.

"We could get flames again," Murphy said.

The Delta Fire, which began off Interstate 5 north of Lakehead on Sept. 5 and destroyed 20 structures, continues to be fought by nearly 900 firefighters, including 18 hand crews, 41 engines and 9 bulldozers. Two helicopters are also available depending on weather conditions.

Firefighters are continuing to patrol the fire area, monitor its perimeter and conduct suppression repair work, officials say. Of the 688 miles of roads used for fire operations, rehabilitation
and repair work has been completed on 425 miles, officials said.

The National Weather Service said Thursday strong winds with possible 40 mph gusts are forecast for the weekend, as well as continued showers.

"There would be rapid fire spread with any starts late Saturday and Sunday," it warned.

Although another Pacific Northwest weather system will bring more showers to Northern California Friday afternoon and evening, only light rain showers are expected to fall near the Delta Fire, it said.