Wildfire suspect arrested after threatening 'this place will burn'

11 August, 2018, 21:29 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Maryland firefighters head west to battle wildfires

They want to encircle the fire before it can devour neighbourhoods and take lives, as enormous fires still burning in northern California have done.

The Holy Fire, which began burning on Monday, is encroaching on Orange and Riverside Counties and was last reported to be only 5 percent contained. One then swoops in low behind a row of houses before opening its bay doors and dumping its load of flame retardant liquid over the ground.

A helicopter drops water to protect a home at the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore, California, southeast of Los Angeles, on August 10, 2018.

The largest fire ever recorded in California, the Mendocino Complex, was now threatening about 1,500 homes instead of some 12,000 earlier in the week.

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InciWeb, the interagency incident information management system offering updates on more than a dozen fires in the tinder-dry west of the country, said that "steep inaccessible terrain will continue to allow the fire to spread into new areas". A damage assessment team will be deployed Friday to determine if any homes were destroyed on the Riverside County side of the fire Thursday. Fire crews from Australia and New Zealand are helping in the operation to bring the blaze under control over an area of more than 1,200 square kilometres. Two other people, a state fire heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the fire and a utility worker trying to restore power near the fire, have died in vehicle accidents.

A resident of the canyon, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, was charged Thursday with arson and other crimes that could send him to prison for life.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that any large gathering is safe and being conducted legally", Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters. He also claimed he had been threatened by the MS-13 gang.

Forrest Gordon Clark 51 faces charges of arson in the Holy fire and could face a maximum sentence of life in jail
Forrest Gordon Clark 51 faces charges of arson in the Holy fire and could face a maximum sentence of life in jail

The toll from the California wildfires rose to 10 Thursday after a heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the Carr Fire was killed in a road accident, authorities said.

Clark's arraignment was delayed Thursday and could take place Friday, according to Rebecca Moss, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. "This shouldn't be called the Holy Jim Fire".

The Holy Fire was one of almost 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan, another resident of the canyon, said he's known Clark for 20 years and that he's had a history of mental illness and hospitalization.

The second biggest is the Carr Fire in Shasta County, also in Northern California.

He said they were still working through the evidence to determine how it was started.

The fire more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Sacramento has destroyed more than 100 homes and blackened an area about the size of Los Angeles.

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