Three people died in a fiery collision between a pickup and a RV on Interstate 5 Sunday afternoon, which caught surrounding vegetation and trees ablaze near Mount Shasta City Park.
The fire was quickly extinguished after consuming about a half acre in the park’s far northern corner, but three unidentified people were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the California Highway Patrol: one in the pickup and two in the RV.
A black plume of smoke billowed from the accident scene around 1 p.m. and explosions rocked the area as the vehicles burned. I-5 traffic was briefly stopped as emergency personnel responded the incident.
According to the CHP, an unidentified person was driving a blue pickup truck southbound on I-5, north of Lassen Lane and just south of the train overpass when they encountered slow moving traffic in a congested construction zone.
“The driver utilized the center median to pass slower moving southbound traffic,” CHP stated in their Report of Collision News Release. “For unsubstantiated reasons the driver then turned the pickup truck to the east (left) and drove across the freeway center median and into the northbound lanes of I-5 where the front end of the pickup truck collided into the left side” of a northbound RV.
The RV overturned and along with the pickup traveled down an embankment before both vehicles came to rest against several trees adjacent to Mount Shasta City Park.
The vehicles ignited and burned, CHP said, setting the vegetation and trees in the surrounding area on fire.
Fire personnel from Mount Shasta, Weed and Dunsmuir fire departments responded along with CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service to extinguish the fire.
Mount Shasta Fire Department Chief Matt Melo said it was due to the “excellent work” and quick response of local agencies that the fire was knocked down at just a half acre.
Though fuel reduction work had been completed in the area about two years ago by the Mount Shasta Trail Association and the Mt. Shasta Area Fire Safe Council, firefighters were able to stop the fire’s growth before it hit the fuelbreak, Melo said.
Fire damage was mostly on the Caltrans side of the fence, said Mount Shasta Recreation and Parks District Administrator Mike Rodriguez, at the far northern corner of the park.
Melo said he and other first responders were frustrated at times during the incident because people were moving toward the fire through the City Park to photograph it.
“We couldn’t get the public out of there,” Melo said. “At one point, people and vehicles were blocking the road into the park, and engines had a hard time getting here on Spring Hill Road” because of the cars parked on either side.
“It is important that in emergencies like this, people move away from the fire, not toward it,” he added.
Other agencies that assisted in the incident include the Mount Shasta Police Department, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CHP said.
Identification of the deceased is pending from the Siskiyou County Sheriff Coroner and the CHP.