Man suspected of sparking huge California forest fire facing life in jail


Man suspected of sparking huge California forest fire facing life in jail

More than 20,000 people are forced from their homes in Southern California by a risky arson wildfire that intensified overnight.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, stands accused of starting the Holy Fire, which in four days has burned more than 18,000 acres of Cleveland National Forest 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of San Diego.

Jerry Brown on Thursday night declared a state of emergency for two counties near Los Angeles as a nearby fire spread to cover more than 10,000 acres.

Ziggy Torok and Starla Affatati watch helplessly Thursday as the flames of the Holy Fire close in on Torok's home in the Rice Canyon neighborhood of Lake Elsinore, Calif.

The Mendocino Complex Fire is actually made up of two smaller blazes, the Ranch Fire and the River Fire.

Crews turned a corner in their battle against a Northern California fire and achieved 51 percent containment of the Mendocino Complex - actually twin fires that are being fought together.

A Cal Fire heavy equipment mechanic who was helping fight the Carr Fire was killed in a auto accident, authorities say.

He is facing two felony counts of arson, one to terrorize and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. The vehicle caught fire, and the victim has not been publicly identified, Reineman said.

Forrest Clark is facing a number of charges in the Holy Fire case.

But Cal Fire said the flames are out of control to the north, roaring into remote and unpopulated areas of thick forests and deep ravines as firefighters contend with record-setting temperatures.

Information released by the Cleveland National Forest, which is where the fire is burning, indicates that in addition to the weather, steep terrain, and limited access, another reason they are losing ground is they are not able to obtain all the firefighting resources they have requested.

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

Orange County sheriff's deputies received a call reporting "erratic behavior" by Clark on July 23 and placed him on a psychiatric hold, said Carrie Braun, a department spokeswoman. Officials are wary that the fire could threaten more homes if the wind were to change direction or the fire were to branch into drainage basins. "I was asleep. I had two earplugs in".

The fire is burning about an hour east of the ocean near the town of Lake Elsinore. He also claimed he had been threatened by the MS-13 gang.

The fire - named for the canyon where it started - destroyed a dozen cabins after it broke out Monday.

If convicted as charged, Clark faces life in prison.

Earlier in the day, Johnson told residents in a video posted on Twitter to stay vigilant and listen to evacuation orders.

Furious flames and smoke can be seen billowing across the area in and around Lake Elsinore.

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