NATOMAS (CBS13) — Drivers on Interstate 5 trapped by fire last month were forced to drive off-road, down a steep embankment to dodge the flames.
The blaze broke out last month near the Arena Boulevard interchange during red flag fire conditions with 50 mile-per-hour gusts so dangerous, both Interstates 5 and 80 were shut down.
Caltrans spokesperson Dennis Keaton said the extreme wind contributed to the quick spread of the flames that day. The Sacramento Fire Department says the fire is suspicious and the cause is still being actively investigated.
Emergency repairs are now underway to fix freeway damage caused by the intense heat and flames and the drivers’ mad dash. Keaton said the total cost of repairs is approximately $2 million.
Crews have already replaced burnt signs, fencing, and more than 9,000 feet of guard rail, but the biggest repair will take place this weekend.
“We’re going to have to shut down the northbound I-5 to Arena Boulevard exit,” Keaton said.
Crews will be fixing an underground stormwater culvert that suffered major damage.
“They’re probably going to have to go in and actually take apart the culvert itself, which means they have to dig underneath the actual ramp and see the extent of the damage,” Keaton said.
The damage of the culvert was caused by the flames, not from the people driving off-road to escape. Caltrans crews in Sacramento are used to feeling the heat to deal with costly repairs caused by vehicle accidents and storms, but this much damage caused by a grass fire, well that’s a road less traveled.
“Costing $2 million worth of repairs, that’s really out of the ordinary from what we’ve been used to,” Keaton said.
The offramp will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday night to 5 a.m. Monday morning.