Jon Baird

Crews Expect Holy Fire Containment by Sunday

August 06, 2018 - 3:17 pm

(KNX 1070) -- Firefighters say the new goal is to have the Holy Fire in Orange and Riverside counties fully surrounded on Sunday. They had hoped to have full containment already but say they're having trouble reaching certain spots. The fire's burned nearly 23,000 acres and it damaged or destroyed 24 homes and buildings.

Meanwhile, the man accused of starting the Holy Fire was back in court in Santa Ana last week.

Forrest Clark, the suspect charged with arson in Holy Fire, made several unusual statements to the judge, and declared himself “innocent.”

Judge Menninger put hearing in recess after Clark said he hadn’t yet read the charging document against him. He suspended criminal proceeding against Clark, who will be held without bail. 

He was in court for arraignment — but alarmed the judge with illogical rambling.

KNX reporter Craig Fiegener:

Doctors will examine his mental health and report back October 10.

Clark is facing an array of charges, including aggravated arson.  During his last court appearance recently, Clark called the charges a lie and claimed he was being threatened by gang members. 

Initially, he was refusing to leave his jail cell in Orange County to go to court.  Clark was supposed to appear before a judge earlier in August ---  to answer to six felony charges but his appearance was rescheduled for Friday.

He appeared in a video feed and his arraignment was postponed to August 17. 

Clark could spend life in prison if convicted of all six felonies, including arson and making criminal threats. Clark owns a cabin in Holy Jim Canyon. He's accused of sending an email saying "this place will burn down." Prosecutors say the fire was then set after that.

Firefighters now say they hope to have the Holy Fire in Riverside and Orange counties fully surrounded by early next week. The 23,000 acre fire is close to 85 percent contained. All Forest Service facilities and campgrounds in the Highway 74 corridor remain closed.

Some neighbors called Clark angry and unstable while others say he's quiet and religious

But, this volunteer firefighter tells CBS-2 he's known the guy for 20 years and hopes he's held responsible:

He's upset to learn the fire was apparently arson:

Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan, who also lives in the area, says that Clark has long feuded with a neighbor and other cabin owners. He ran through the area last week screaming, and sent Milligan an email warning that "this place will burn."  Twelve cabins have been destroyed by fire.

But evacuation orders are still in effect for a few thousand people. On Monday, more evacuation orders have been lifted in the Lake Elsinore and Corona areas including the neighborhood of Glen Eden.

One woman who's gotten back to her home says she found a real mess:

Residents around the Lake Elsinore area say they're thankful for the firefighters' hard work.

California's Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire carves its way along ridges and hillsides of the Cleveland National Forest. Thousands of homes are threatened by fire in the foothills above Lake Elsinore and nearby communities.

Photographer Matt Hartman was in an area where the fire has been right on top of him. He told KNX the flames are moving quickly up Wright Canyon in an area that has been evacuated near Dale Court. Hartman watched a drop by a DC-10, which is trying to keep the flames from homes, just a quarter-mile away. Hartman says he has asthma and is wearing a mask so he can be out doing his job: documenting the Holy Fire.

Orange County Chief of Staff for the District Attorney Susan Kang Schroeder:

The "Holy Fire" was reported near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads in Orange County. Air quality is expected to reach unhealthy levels due to smoke.

The fire started in Orange County and is now racing toward Riverside County in brush and vegetation that hasn't burned in nearly 40 years. 

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