Firefighters continued working Tuesday to contain a 150-acre flare-up of the Holy Fire that burned thousands of acres in Orange and Riverside counties and forced thousands of people in Lake Elsinore to evacuate their homes.
The flare-up occurred about 9:20 a.m. Monday on Santiago Peak and briefly threatened an array of communication towers. Fire officials said the flare-up occurred within previously established Holy Fire containment lines but managed to cross those lines by late Monday morning.
It remained 10 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. No residential structures were being threatened by the flames. Efforts to knock down the flare-up were largely being done from the air, due to the remote, hard-to-reach terrain in which it was burning.
“It’s an hour and a half on dirt roads just to get on site,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jake Rodriguez said Monday.
The Holy Fire, which broke out in the Holy Jim Canyon area on Aug. 6, was officially listed at 93 percent containment as of Tuesday, with full containment estimated to occur Sunday, according to Cleveland National Forest officials. The fire has been listed for several days at 22,986 acres. An incident-management website on Tuesday listed the overall acreage as 23,986, however, newly released site maps released by the Cleveland National Forest showed the blaze covering about 21,800 acres, including Monday’s flare-up.
The fire has destroyed 12 residences in Orange County, mostly in the Holy Jim Canyon area, and six homes in Riverside County.
Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, is charged with aggravated arson resulting in damage to at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats in connection with the blaze.
Clark has a cabin in Holy Jim Canyon, and arson investigators allegedly uncovered evidence indicating the fire was ignited in the immediate vicinity of his property, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
A volunteer fireman, Mike Milligan, who has a cabin near Clark’s, told reporters the defendant has had a long-running feud with a neighbor and other cabin owners. In the days prior to the fire, Clark ran through the area screaming and sent Milligan a message warning that “this place will burn,” he said.
Clark is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and is undergoing a court-ordered evaluation for mental illness.
The Holy Fire bore down on Lake Elsinore and surrounding communities for six days, prompting mandatory evacuations and road closures. The Ortega (74) Highway between San Juan Capistrano and Lake Elsinore was closed from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14 due to the monster blaze.
Several firefighters were injured battling the flames, though none of the injuries were life-threatening.
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