Offbeat Waging a desperate fight to save homes as Holy fire explodes to 18,137 acres

20:10  10 august  2018
20:10  10 august  2018 Source:   latimes.com

Man suspected of sparking huge California forest fire facing life in jail

  Man suspected of sparking huge California forest fire facing life in jail The man suspected of starting one of the massive wild fires raging in California was to appear in court on Friday and could face life in prison if eventually convicted of arson and other charges. Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, stands accused of starting the Holy fire, which in four days has burned more than 18,000 acres (7,300 hectares) of Cleveland National Forest 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of San Diego. The charge sheet states that Clark deliberately started the fire, which is still only five percent contained, with the intention of causing damage to others and burning a forest.

Waging a desperate fight to save homes as Holy fire explodes to 18 , 137 acres . 'It feels like a war zone': Lake Elsinore residents fight to save homes as Holy fire rages. This L.A. sheriff's deputy was a pariah in federal court.

Waging a desperate fight to save homes as Holy fire explodes to 18 , 137 acres . (Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times). They've been crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire . They’ve even been adorned with dangling bags of dog droppings.

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — As flames flickered behind Ana Tran's McVicker Canyon home, she and her friend rushed to their car and sped past firefighters who were heading toward the blaze. Thick black smoke billowed above homes and cars blanketed in pinkish fire retardant.

Break in the weather helps California firefighters battle massive blazes across state

  Break in the weather helps California firefighters battle massive blazes across state LOS ANGELES - Cooler, calmer weather is helping firefighters get a handle on battling the largest wildfires burning across California and preventing new blazes from getting out of control. Temperatures are cooling slightly, and humidity is inching upward due to a weakened high-pressure system that forecasters say will persist through Tuesday. Though conditions remain far from ideal, they're an Temperatures are cooling slightly, and humidity is inching upward due to a weakened high-pressure system that forecasters say will persist through Tuesday.

Ventura County Firefighter Aaron Cohen catches his breath after fighting to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue The fire has consumed over 50,000 acres according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire protection.

"If there’s a bright side … there are some homes that were saved .” There was no estimate on when the closures would be lifted. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as the fire exploded within the first few hours, charring some 18 ,000 acres by nightfall.

The residents, like many others, made a frantic escape Thursday after winds picked up in Lake Elsinore and pushed the raging Holy fire within feet of homes. The blaze had ravaged more than 18,000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest and had spread into Riverside County as on Friday morning.

While the U.S. Forest Service said that no additional homes had been lost — at least 12 structures were destroyed earlier — the wildfire was only 5 percent contained.

The firefight continued Friday morning, as more firefighters and aircraft poured into the area. Officials are expecting another hot day, with temperatures in the 90s. More than 20,000 residents were urged to leave their homes.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Orange and Riverside counties.

Firefighters watch for flare ups as they prevent the flames from the Holy Fire from crossing the Ortega Highway in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Aug. 10, 2018. © Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Firefighters watch for flare ups as they prevent the flames from the Holy Fire from crossing the Ortega Highway in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Aug. 10, 2018.

When Tran returned to her neighborhood, she found her home — still standing — under a smoky sky.

"It feels like a war zone," she said, ash collecting on her forehead as she snapped photos of flames igniting behind a row of homes on Woodbridge Street near Crest Drive.

"I don't even recognize the neighborhood," added her friend, Bao Vinh.

A mile or so away, Apolonio Escalante and his wife walked around scanning the aftermath of the fire that had swept through their Rice Canyon neighborhood. Hundreds of homes sit across from the canyons; some are snuggled deeper in the terrain. The fire left trees stripped bare, everything black. Street signage was damaged.

Escalante said he was at his construction job when his wife called with an urgent request: Get home, flames are nearby.

The couple loaded valuables and corralled their 6-year-old German shepherd, Muneca, into a dog crate and put her onto the bed of their truck. Then they got the hoses out, watching flames rise 40 to 100 feet high.

Lightning storms mass over California, Oregon as wildfires blaze

  Lightning storms mass over California, Oregon as wildfires blaze <p>Storm clouds gathered over southern Oregon and northern California early on Wednesday, threatening to spark more wildfires with lightning strikes as emergency crews battled several deadly blazes, forecasters said.</p>The clouds carried little rain and offered little chance of a break from the bone-dry conditions plaguing the region, the National Weather Service said.

In recent years, wildfires have burned up to 9 million acres (3.6 million hectares) of land. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire , including trees, grasses, brush, even homes . Firefighters also fight wildfires by deliberately starting fires in a process called controlled burning.

"We were watering everything," his wife, Josefina Escalante, said. "It looked like someone had poured gasoline on the fire. ... It took off."

The fire burned close to Rice Canyon Elementary School, but the campus did not appear damaged. The Escalantes said their home has water, power and gas, so they won't have to find shelter elsewhere.

"Tomorrow," Apolonio Escalante said, "I go back to work."

Josefina chimed in: "Me, too."

Thursday evening, fixed-wing planes were temporarily grounded because of poor visibility. Soon, air quality improved and they took off again. While homes in and around Little John Way were under threat after dusk, many residents on the east of Grand Avenue hadn't left their homes as the fire began coming down the mountain. Most were shooting photos and videos as air tankers dumped fire retardant.

As hundreds of firefighters and 10 water-dropping helicopters worked to douse flames and stop them from spreading, prosecutors Thursday filed several charges against a man suspected of setting the blaze.

In an interview with a reporter before his arrest, Forrest Clark, 51, said he had no idea how the fire started. "I was asleep. I had two earplugs in," Clark said, according to a video obtained by KABC-TV Channel 7.

Authorities did not say how or why Clark ignited the fire. The Trabuco Canyon resident faces one felony count each of aggravated arson of five or more inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats, and two felony counts of resisting an executive officer.

If convicted, Clark faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison.

Meanwhile, the Lake Elsinore Unified School District announced that all schools would be closed Friday.

In Los Angeles County, two men were charged with setting a separate brush fire near the Morris Dam, a reservoir in the San Gabriel Mountains. Christopher Paul Ortega, 20, of Glendora, and Santino Francisco Gnaulati, 21, of Covina, each face one felony count of arson of a structure or forest.

Sheriff's deputies and prosecutors say the men, who have pleaded not guilty, started the fire near Highway 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Glendora early Tuesday. Firefighters quickly got a handle on the blaze, which burned a quarter of an acre.

If convicted, Ortega and Gnaulati face up to six years in state prison. They are due back in court later this month.

Lightning storms mass over California, Oregon as wildfires blaze .
<p>Storm clouds gathered over southern Oregon and northern California early on Wednesday, threatening to spark more wildfires with lightning strikes as emergency crews battled several deadly blazes, forecasters said.</p>The clouds carried little rain and offered little chance of a break from the bone-dry conditions plaguing the region, the National Weather Service said.

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