Firefighters Increase Holy Fire Containment, But Flames Edge Toward Retirement Community

The man accused of deliberately starting the fire appeared in court on Friday

What to Know

  • The Holy fire started Aug. 6 in the Cleveland National Forest near the Orange and Riverside county border
  • A resident in the area was arrested on suspicion of arson
  • Some evacuations were lifted as firefighters made progress over the weekend

Firefighters made steady progress over the weekend in battling a wildfire that destroyed 16 structures as it raged through Southern California's Cleveland National Forest.

The Holy fire was at 22,700 acres early Monday with containment at 52 percent. Slightly cooler conditions helped firefighters who have been protecting lives and homes in the Lake Elsinore area for about a week.

"The weather out here in California seems to be cooling down today and over the next couple days, and that should hopefully help firefighters get even more containment," said Lynne Tolmachoff of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "They should make better progress over the next couple of days."

They'll need to, with temperatures, expected to again reach 100 degrees or more by the end of the week.

Flames still edged towards a retirement community wedged between the Santa Ana Mountains and 15 Freeway north of Lake Elsinore, prompting voluntary evacuation orders for 1,317 residential units in a retirement community.

People living in the Trilogy Glen Ivy community were put on notice to leave, according to Cleveland National Forest fire commanders in a warning issued at noon. Residents of the development's single-family homes and condos who have trouble driving in the dark were advised to leave now in a message posted on the Trilogy Glen Ivy website.

The Holy Fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it began last Monday — is one of a dozen large blazes burning across California as the state sees earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

With firefighters beginning to get a better handle on the blaze, they began to lift evacuation orders over the weekend for areas previously in its path. More than 20,000 people were reportedly told to evacuate at one point.

Aircraft have made flight after flight, dumping water and bright pink retardant on the blaze to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities near the flames.

The man accused of deliberately starting the fire appeared in court on Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened and saying the arson charge against him was a lie. A court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million.

Elsewhere, the largest wildfire ever recorded in California — the Mendocino Complex — burning north of Sacramento destroyed more than 100 homes. It was nearly 70 percent contained Saturday. Updated containment figures were not immediately available Sunday. On Saturday it had covered 508 square miles (1,315 sq. kilometers).

The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed eight people and burned more than 1,000 homes was more than 50 percent contained on Saturday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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