Jon Baird

Crews Have Holy Fire 70 Percent Contained

August 06, 2018 - 3:17 pm

(KNX 1070) -- Firefighters now have the Holy Fire more than 70 percent surrounded. They say they hope to have the 23,000 -acre fire fully contained by Friday.

Ortega Highway reopened between Orange and Riverside counties but officials say power is still out in that corridor.

But evacuation orders are still in effect for a few thousand people. Firefighters will focus on protecting homes and buildings and will work to build containment lines to the north and east of the fire's point of origin in Holy Jim Canyon on Tuesday.

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:

Some other evacuation orders are still in effect because of potential danger.

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

The nearly 23,000-acre fire is more than half surrounded. While many evacuation orders have been lifted, the fire is creeping towards a retirement community wedged between the Santa Ana Mountains and the 15 freeway.

Some school districts in the area have delayed the beginning of the school year because of smoke from the fire.

Fire officials say they expect to have the fire full-contained by Friday.


The man charged with starting the "Holy Fire" appeared on a video feed Friday in front of a judge in Orange County court. 

He said the charges against him are “a lie.”

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

He appeared in a video feed on Friday and his arraignment was postponed to August 17. His bail is set at $1 million.

The Holy Fire has grown so big so quickly that fire crews can’t keep up. The acreage goes up meaning the containment usually goes down.  Fire crews hope to finally get to gain some ground Friday in Lake Elsinore as it continues to chew up tinder-dry brush and threaten thousands of homes and is now up to more than 18,000 acres. 

The current status of the fire is just five percent containment. There are mandatory evacuations for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southwest of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway in Elsinore, Horsethief Canyon, Glen Eden, McVicker Canyon, Sycamore Creek, Glenn Ivy,  Lake Street Community,  Rice Canyon,  and El Cariso Village, Rancho Capistrano and the Ortega Highway corridor from the Grand Avenue in Riverside County to Nichols Institute in Orange County. About 20,000 people have been affected. El Cariso residents are advised to evacuate west on Highway 74 toward Orange County. More than 20,000 people have been affected.

KNX's Jon Baird is live on the scene:

California's Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as a four-day-old fire carves its way along ridges and hillsides of the Cleveland National Forest. Evacuation orders are in effect for more than 20,000 people. Thousands of homes are threatened by fire in the foothills above Lake Elsinore and nearby communities.

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 last week saying "this place will burn down."   Prosecutors say the fire was then set on Monday.

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:

Photographer Matt Hartman is in an area where the fire has been right on top of him. He tells KNX the flames are moving quickly up Wright Canyon in an area that has been evacuated near Dale Court. Hartman just 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.

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.

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

The "Holy Fire" was reported early Monday afternoon 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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