Valley News -

By Stephanie Lai
Intern 

UPDATED: Holy Fire reaches 29 percent containment

Blaze chars over 21,000 acres

 

Last updated 8/13/2018 at 9:13am

Shane Gibson

A Cal Fire firefighter from San Luis Obispo prepares to battle flames threatening a home above McVicker Canyon in Lake Elsinore during the fourth day of the Holy Fire, Aug. 9.

UPDATE Aug. 11, 9:30 a.m.

Firefighters are continuining to make headway in the fight against the Holy Fire, despite the challenges of steep terrain, and dry, windy conditions. Overnight operations have contained 29 percent of the 21,473 acre blaze, according to Cleveland National Forest.

Mandatory evacuations have been lifted for Horsethief Canyon, McVicker Canyon and Rice Canyon areas.

All other mandatory evacuations, including Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano and all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southeast of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway, remain in effect.

Voluntary evacuations are in place for Machado and Shoreline communities in Lake Elsinore.

A care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School.

Road closures have been imposed on DePalma at Horsethief Canyon, at Indian Truck Trail, Campbell Rd at Temescal Canyon.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District announced it would delay the beginning of its school year until August 20. All schools in the Menifee Unified School District will open Monday. Perris Union High School District officials said they will decide Sunday whether schools in the district will be open Monday. Schools in the Perris Elementary School District will open Thursday, Aug. 16.

Firefighters are bracing for high temperatures and low humidity throughout the weekend, a weather pattern that could result in critical fire behavior.

More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the fire, which continued to spread to the east toward Lake Elsinore and north into Cold Water Canyon and Santiago Peak, prompting the evacuation of more than 7,400 homes and structures and 21,484 people, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Crews strengthened containment lines on the northwest side of the fire in Coldwater Canyon, north of the North Main Divide Road, aided by air resources that dropped fire retardant around homes to create a fire break while firefighters worked to strengthen lines east and southeast of the fire. A containment line was constructed around El Cariso Village to keep fire from entering the community.

There is now an interactive map where residents can enter their address and verify if they are under an evacuation order. Find it at www.rivcoready.org/activeevents.

Residents who suffer damage or losses from the Holy Fire can register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For more information, or to apply online, visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362.

Kim Harris and City News Service contributed to this story.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Aug. 10, 8:30 p.m.

There is a bit of good news coming from the front lines of the Holy Fire this evening, as Cleveland National Forest announced the blaze has reached 10 percent containment.

The announcement came via the agencies Twitter page, and while containment numbers grew, so did the fast-moving wildfire, which has now charred 19,107 acres.

According to the city of Lake Elsinore all evacuation orders remain in place for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano and for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southeast of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway.

Voluntary evacuations are in place for Machado and Shoreline communities in Lake Elsinore.

"Evacuations orders not likely to be lifted until tomorrow or Sunday. Stay tuned Lake Elsinore," the city said.

There is now an interactive map where residents can enter their address and verify if they are under an evacuation order. Find it at http://www.rivcoready.org/activeevents.

Residents who suffer damage or losses from the Holy Fire can register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For more information, or to apply online, visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362.

UPDATE: Aug. 10, 11:58 a.m.

According to a report by City News Service, Forrest Gordon Clark, the man accused of setting the Holy Fire, made his initial court appearance in Santa Ana this morning, but his arraignment has been postponed until Aug. 17.

While firefighters struggle to gain control of the 18,137-acre Holy Fire which Clark is accused of igniting, Clark continually disrupted the hearing, "calling the charges against him a 'lie,' and insisting again that he was being threatened," the agency reported.

"When a court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1million, Clark said he could easily afford it."

Meanwhile on the front lines, Cleveland National Forest is reporting a possible bird strike on one of the fixed wing aircrafts being used to fight the blaze.

"There is a report of a bird strike involving one of our aircrafts. Tanker 912 & Lead plane 49 have landed in San Bernardino. EVERYBODY IS FINE. Planes are being checked," the agency posted on Twitter at 11:53 a.m.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated when more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Aug. 10, 11:15 a.m.

A third firefighter has been injured in the fight against the Holy Fire, which continues its march through Riverside County and into Lake Elsinore.

His injury, while unspecifed is not life threatening, authorities said.

All evacuations, road closures and school closures as listed below remain in effect.

The South Coast Air Quality management District has issued a smoke advisory due to the 18,137-acre Holy Fire.

"Winds will be from the west/southwest today before transitioning to a southerly wind during the overnight hours," SCAQMD said. "During the overnight and early morning hours, downslope winds may bring smoke and ash into the valleys adjacent to the fire."

Overall, meteorological conditions may bring smoke into portions of Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County. Air quality may reach Unhealthy levels or higher in areas directly impacted by smoke.

Impacted areas could include Corona, Norco, metropolitan Riverside, Perris Valley, Lake Elsinore, Temecula Valley (including Murrieta), Hemet San Jacinto Valley and Banning Pass.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Firefighters are continuing the battle against the reported 18,137-acre Holy Fire today as it rages through the northwest area of Lake Elsinore.

"For those wondering about containment, the hand/containment line grows as the fire grows. We continue to actively engage, but cannot get ahead of the fire," Cleveland National Forest announced this morning on its Twitter page.

While published reports are announcing the loss of a home in the area, Valley News has yet to independently verify this information. A dozen cabins have already been lost in Holy Jim Canyon, where the fire was ignited by an alleged arsonist, Monday, Aug. 6.

Thursday night at a community meeting at Pins 'n Pockets in Lake Elsinore, fire officials announced the blaze was at 5 percent containment and more than 1,000 personnel are dispatched fighting the fire with 10 water-dropping helicopters and seven fixed wing aircraft.

"We are still making progress on the fire. As the fire continues to grow, our containment lines remain the same," Operations Section Chief Sal Reyes with Southern California Interagency Management Team 1, said. "So we are making good progress."

According to Lake Elsinore Police Chief Daniel Anne, there are multiple police patrols in mandatory evacuation areas to prevent looting. Anne said there have been no incidents of looting.

See Shane Gibson photos here

An unstable fire environment with a complex set of air patterns including tropical humidity and monsoonal flow, expected to last until next week are making firefighting efforts difficult, according to Meteorologist Pete Curran with Southern California Interagency Management Team 1.

Steep terrain of the area and overgrown brush are also hampering firefighting efforts

State of Emergency

Late Thursday evening California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area at the request of 67th District Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez who announced the declaration on her Twitter account, shortly after addressing those gathered for the standing room only community meeting.

"Thank you @JerryBrownGov for responding swiftly to my request that a State of Emergency be issued for the #Holyfire, we need all the help we can get," she tweeted.

The state of emergency opens the door for state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering and making response and recovery funding available for those affected by the blaze.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano and for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southeast of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway.

Voluntary evacuations are in place for Machado and Shoreline communities in Lake Elsinore.

A care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School. Large animals are being accepted at Elsinore High School. Small animals should be taken to San Jacinto Animal Shelter since Animal Friends of the Valley is now at capacity, a Facebook post by the city of Lake Elsinore said.

"Residents are urged to follow orders, be prepared, and to stay safe out there," the City of Lake Elsinore said.

Road Closures

Caltrans has closed the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano because of the Holy Fire, according to agency spokeswoman Terri Kasinga. Other road closures include Mountain Street at Lake Street, Orange Grove Way at Lake Street, Broadway at Grand Avenue, Lincoln Street at Grand Avenue, and McVicker Canyon Road at Grand Avenue. Temescal Canyon Road is closed between Indian Truck Trail and Lake Street to allow fire apparatus access in the area, the Cleveland National Forest reported

School Closures

All schools in Menifee Union, Lake Elsinore Unified, Perris Union High School and the Perris Elementary school districts are closed Friday, Aug. 10.

Menifee Union School District rescheduled all elementary school Back to School nights for Thursday, Aug. 23, and said that school will resume Aug. 13 unless otherwise notified.

Air Quality

Air quality has reached unhealthy levels for Perris and Temecula Valley according to South Coast AQMD. Anyone with breathing issues should remain inside. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, meteorological conditions may bring smoke from the Holy Fire into portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Air quality may reach Unhealthy levels or higher in areas directly impacted by smoke.

The smoke is likely to impact Interstate 15, officials warn, predicting slowdowns on the I-15 corridor.

Lake Closed

Lake Elsinore remains closed for recreational use, according to the City of Lake Elsinore's Facebook page.

"Due to the Holy Fire and the need for water planes to have unimpeded access to the water to combat the fire, Lake Elsinore is closed for recreational use," the city said. "We will pass along any information through our City website (http://www.lake-elsinore.org) or other social media outlets."

Firefighter Injuries

Two two firefighters have been injured in the last hour battling the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest. One crewman suffered a twisted ankle, and the other fell and fractured his knee in the area of Bosley Lane and Glen Eden Road, roughly 2 miles north of Lake Elsinore.

Ambulances were sent to retrieve and transport the firefighters.

Arraignment Postponed

Shane Gibson

A Cal Fire firefighter from San Luis Obispo battles flames, smoke, heat, wind and embers during an effort to protect homes in a neighborhood above McVicker Canyon in Lake Elsinore during the Holy Fire, Aug. 9.

Forrest Gordon Clark, who was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, was charged with aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats, all felonies, as well as two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest Thursday. Clark could face 10 years to life in prison. He also faces sentencing enhancements for arson of multiple structures.

Clark refused to leave his jail cell Thursday, so his arraignment was postponed until later today.

When investigators went to question Clark he abrasively told them they weren't allowed on his property in Holy Jim Canyon, the flashpoint of the fire, Duff said. He is accused of threatening his neighbors, including one whose cabin burned down an hour later, Duff said.

Residents can call (714) 573-6200 and (714) 573-6202 for more information on the Holy Fire. Sign up to receive emergency alerts at http://www.RivCoReady.org/AlertRivCo tailored to specific addresses and communities.

Stephanie Lai contributed to this story.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

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