Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Wildfire suspect arrested after threatening 'this place will burn'

Wildfire suspect arrested after threatening 'this place will burn'

Aircraft dropped fire retardant on flames and homes as people ignoring evacuation orders used garden hoses to spray down their properties when the blaze flared Thursday evening, propelled by 20-mph (30-kph) gusts.

The so-called "Holy Fire" started on Monday in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has already burned 12 structures and is only five per cent contained, authorities say.

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated in and around the city of Lake Elsinore, where flames and billowing smoke rose into the sky at the edge of the city of 60,000 near the Santa Ana Mountains. Two other people, a state fire heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the fire and a utility worker trying to restore power near the fire, have died in auto accidents.

Fox News reported this week that smoke covers 75 percent of California because of the wildfires.

The Holy Fire - named for Holy Jim Canyon where it began Monday - grew to almost 30 square miles (77 square kilometres) after almost doubling in size overnight.

He's charged with three counts of arson, resisting arrest, deterring an executive officer and is being held on $1 million bail.

Clark spoke to a videographer from OnScene outside his Holy Jim Canyon prior to his arrest, insisting he had nothing to do with the fire.

"Smoke from the western fires is making it all the way to the East Coast and beyond", the National Weather Service said in a tweet. Extremely dry brush in the area, combined with steep hillsides, created ideal conditions for the blazes to spread.

Fire chiefs were this morning building barriers and constructing containment lines to slow down the approaching wildfire.

The fire started several days ago near Holy Jim Canyon in Orange County, allegedly on objective by a local resident.

Orange County Sheriffs Department Forrest Clark is accused of starting the Holy Fire in Southern California.

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More than 1,200 fire personnel continue to battle the blaze, which is just 5 percent contained and spreading northeast, creeping farther into Riverside County and threatening some 7,500 homes.

The fire near Lake Elsinore is devouring brushy foothills, ridgetops and canyons.

"I was asleep, I had two earbuds in", he said.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened.

If convicted as charged, Clark faces life in prison.

"I'm pissed, I'm outraged, I'm disgusted", said Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson.

The third largest is the Ferguson Fire, near Yosemite National Park, incinerating more than 95,000 acres.

Authorities have issued mandatory evacuation orders and one person has been arrested in connection with one of the blazes.

For now, in Orange and Riverside counties, the focus remains on the Holy Fire.

Firefighters under Cal Fire's command have helped OR authorities fight a fire near the California border and responded to a blaze that broke out this week in Orange County and burned a dozen cabins.

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