SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A wind-whipped grass fire along Interstate 5 in Natomas created both chaos and a traffic jam on Sunday.
The freeway was closed in both directions for five hours as crews worked to put out the flames. It started as grass fire at Hilton Garden Inn and spread to the freeway just north of Arena Boulevard near Sleep Train Arena.
During the battle, cars got stranded in traffic. As captured in a video taken by a bystander, some cars got off the freeway through an opening in a shoulder fence that was cut or knocked down.
Motorists and pedestrians escaped down a ravine, through a dirt field near the old Sleep Train Arena. The flames originated from a nearby hotel, then jumped onto the freeway, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.
“It’s like really close to us. It’s really close, and the wind is very strong. So we gotta get moving and really fast,” a woman named Antonia said.
Captain Adam Huckaby of Sacramento Metro Fire said these wind conditions can make a situation go from bad to worse at a moment’s notice.
“Definitely makes you hyper-aware things can go awry quicker than they normally would,” Huckaby said.
This fire was just a small reminder of the large, destructive wind-driven fires that raged across Northern California over the weekend.
In Sonoma County, the wind-whipped Kincade Fire exploded in size on Sunday. So far, 90 buildings – including a more than century-and-a-half old winery – have been destroyed. Two firefighters were also hurt in the battle, one of them suffering a severe burn.
Another round of strong winds is expected to roll into the area on Tuesday, according to the California Office of Emergency Services.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday due to the fires across the state.