Valley News -

By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

UPDATED: Officials report Holy Fire at 10,236 acres and five percent containment at community meeting

Governor grants State of Emergency, evacuations remain in place, school closures continue

 

Last updated 8/10/2018 at 8:29am

Shane Gibson

A DC-10 Air Tanker makes a drop of retardant near homes in Lake Elsinore during the start of a long series of fixed-wing air attack drops that are made to protect homes from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore, Aug. 8.

UPDATE: Aug. 9, 8:30 p.m.

Fire officials and city and county representatives came together to meet with the public and media earlier tonight at Pins 'N Pockets in Lake Elsinore at the Holy Fire Community Meeting. The reason for the meeting was to keep the public informed on the progress firefighters are making on the fire that has charred more than 18,137 acres with 5 percent containment since Aug. 6, according to Operations Section Chief Sal Reyes with SoCal Team 1.

"We are still making progress on the fire. As the fire continues to grow, our containment lines remain the same," Reyes said. "So we are making good progress."

"Mandatory evacuations have been set from Sycamore Creek all the way down south to Lake Elsinore into the 74 and into the El Cariso area," Reyes said.

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.

Lake Elsinore Fire Chief Jeff Harrison reported that more than 1,000 personnel are dispatched fighting the fire with 10 water-dropping helicopters and seven large air tankers such as DC10s.

Lake Elsinore Police Chief Daniel Anne reported there are no damages to houses in the area connecting to the forest that he is aware of. According to Anne, the fire may have destroyed several power lines leaving some communities without power.

Sheriff Anne also detailed the number of police patrols in mandatory evacuation areas to assure evacuees that their homes are safe from looting. Anne also reported that there have been no incidents of looting.

Audience members expressed concerns about the use of different colored tape indicating evacuated houses versus occupied homes. Sheriff Anne responded that the patrolling personnel looks for individuals to ensure that suspicious activity and individuals have legitimate reasons for being in the mandatory evacuation zone.

"I asked governor this afternoon to declare a state of emergency for Riverside County," Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez representing Lake Elsinore constituents, said at the meeting.

If approved, according to Melendez, the immediate impacts of calling a state of emergency would be making price gouging illegal for certain services or goods for those affected by a State of Emergency such as lodging, food, and basics. A state of emergency would also make Riverside County eligible for federal emergency grants to aid in relief and help individuals file insurance claims, Melendez said.

"I'm happy to report that per my request, the Governor has issued a State of Emergency for the Holy Fire," Melendez reported just hours after the meeting.

Pete Curran from Incident Team 1 reported an unstable fire environment with a complex set of air patterns including tropical humidity and monsoonal flow, which he said has made fighting the fire difficult and could last into the next week.

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.

As of the time of this update, all Romoland School District and Menifee District schools will be closed Friday, Aug. 10. Menifee Union School District rescheduled all elementary school Back to School nights for Thursday, Aug. 23. MUSD also reports that school will resume Aug. 13 unless otherwise notified. All Perris Union High Schools will be closed Aug. 10 as well, due to poor air conditions.

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.

Kim Harris and City News Service contributed to this story.

UPDATE: Aug. 9, 2:30 p.m.

The Machado and Shoreline communities of Lake Elsinore have been placed on voluntary evacuation due to threat from the Holy Fire which has burned more than 9,600 acres at last report. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore, Rancho Capistrano and for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southeast of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway.

The Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station reported that Deputy Sheriff's, California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire Police, U.S Forestry Police, and of course a lot of Firefighters were working in the areas affected by the evacuations and have yet to report any thefts.

The department is currently conducting roving security patrols to keep the neighborhoods safe and crime free and will continue to do so until the evacuation orders are lifted.

Lake Closed

Lake Elsinore has been 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."

Air Quality

Air quality has reached unhealthy levels for Temecula Valley. 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.

Firefighter Injuries

City News Service is reporting 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 apparently fell and busted his knee in the area of Bosley Lane and Glen Eden Road, roughly two miles north of Lake Elsinore, according to reports from the scene.

Ambulances were sent to retrieve and transport the firefighters.

Arraignment Postponed

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, according to Assistant District Attorney Chris Duff. 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 Friday.

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.

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

The Holy Fire, which officials believe was ignited on purpose, continues to push forward reaching the outskirts of Lake Elsinore resulting in school closures and evacuations. The blaze has now charred 9,614 acres.

The fire which is only 5 percent contained, has destroyed a dozen cabins in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest as it made its way across the Santa Ana Mountains.

At last report, 30 engines, 10 helicopters, 12 crews, one water tender, three dozers and seven fixed-wing aircraft are deployed fighting the fire.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was charged today with aggravated arson affecting multiple structures, criminal threats and resisting an executive officer in connection with the fast-moving fire. According to City News Service, Clark's arraignment is scheduled to begin shortly, but it is unlikely that Clark will make an appearance, "because he's refusing to come out of his cell."

If convicted, Clark, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, faces life in prison.

Community Meeting Scheduled

A community meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. to discuss the fire and current situations. The meeting will be held in the large conference room at Pins N Pockets, located at 32250 Mission Trail in Lake Elsinore.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano. At 1 p.m. Thursday, the National Forest Service announced the Machado community of Lake Elsinore as part of the mandatory evacuations.

Residents in these areas should leave immediately.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department has been going door to door asking residents to leave and tagging the properties appropriately. No additional evacuations are expected at this time, according to the City of 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.

School Closures

Lake Elsinore Unified School District has closed Luiseño School, Rice Canyon Elementary, Terra Cotta Middle School, and Withrow Elementary until further notice due to the proximity of the fire. According to Perris Union High School District, Paloma Valley High School and Heritage High School will continue to be closed through Friday due to poor air quality from the Holy Fire. All Menifee Union School District schools will be closed as well through Friday.

Watch the district websites at http://www.leusd.k12.ca.us, http://www.menifeeusd.org and http://www.puhsd.org or district social media accounts for more information on the closures.

Information

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.

Stephanie Lai and City News Service contributed to this story.

See Shane Gibson photos here

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

UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 9, 8 a.m.

The Holy Fire, which officials believe was ignited on purpose. continues to push forward reaching the outskirts of Lake Elsinore resulting in school closures and evacuations. The blaze has now charred 9,614 acres.

The fire which is only 5 percent contained, has destroyed a dozen cabins in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest as it made its way across the Santa Ana Mountains.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested yesterday under suspicion of starting the fast-moving blaze is expected to be charged today with aggravated arson affecting multiple structures, criminal threats and resisting an executive officer, according to Susan Kang

Schroeder of the Orange County District Attorney's Office. If convicted, Clark faces life in prison.

He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

A community meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. to discuss the fire and current situations. The meeting will be held in the large conference room at Pins N Pockets, located at 32250 Mission Trail in Lake Elsinore.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano.

Residents in these areas should leave immediately.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department has been going door to door asking residents to leave and tagging the properties appropriately. No additional evacuations are expected at this time, according to the City of 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.

The Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station said deputies, California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire Police, U.S. Forestry Police and firefighters are working on the fire and making sure evacuated areas are free from looting. Officers are conducting roving security patrols and will do so until the evacuation orders are lifted.

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.

School Closures

Lake Elsinore Unified School District has closed Luiseño School, Rice Canyon Elementary, Terra Cotta Middle School, and Withrow Elementary until further notice due to the proximity of the fire. Paloma Valley High School and Heritage High School will also be closed Thursday due to poor air quality from the Holy Fire.

Watch the district websites at http://www.leusd.k12.ca.us, http://www.menifeeusd.org and http://www.puhsd.org or district social media accounts for more information on the closures.

Information

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.

Stephanie Lai and City News Service contributed to this story.

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

UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 9 p.m.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District has announced that out of an abundance of caution, and because of mandatory evacuations in specific neighborhoods affected by the Holy Fire, Luiseño School, Rice Canyon Elementary, Terra Cotta Middle School, and Withrow Elementary will all be closed until further notice. Watch the district's website and school websites for related updates.

Paloma Valley High School and Heritage High School will also be closed tomorrow due to poor air quality from the Holy Fire, according to PUHSD Superintendent Grant Bennet.

Perris Unified School District, Menifee Union School District, and Romoland School District will close all schools Thursday, Aug. 9 due to unhealthy conditions reported from South Coast AQMD.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested under suspicion of igniting the blaze. He was booked into Orange County Jail Aug. 8, on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, one count of felony threat to terrorize, and one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest, according to the Cleveland National Forest. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

To date, the Holy Fire has charred 6,200 acres and is only 5 percent contained.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano.

Residents in these areas should leave immediately.

A care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School. They are accepting animals and large animals can be taken to Elsinore High School.

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

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.

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.

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

UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 3:20 p.m.

Caltrans is closing the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano because of the Holy Fire, according to agency spokeswoman Terri Kasinga.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano.

Residents in these areas should leave immediately.

A care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School. They are accepting animals and large animals can be taken to Elsinore High School.

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

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.

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.

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

UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2 p.m.

Cleveland National Forest had announced that mandatory evacuations have been ordered for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano, due to the threat from the Holy Fire which is now reported to have charred 6,200 acres.

Residents in these areas should leave immediately.

The City of Lake Elsinore reported that a care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School. They are accepting animals and large animals can be taken to Elsinore High School. "Residents are urged to follow orders, be prepared, and to stay safe out there," the city said.

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. Highway 74 (Ortega Highway) remains open at this time. If a mandatory evacuation is ordered for Highway 74, it will be closed on the Elsinore side.

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.

At last report the fire was 5 percent contained, though it is unknown at this time if that percentage has changed.

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

ORIGINAL STORY:

One man has been arrested on suspicion of causing the Holy Fire, which has burned 12 cabins and charred 4,100 acres in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was booked into Orange County Jail Aug. 8, on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, one count of felony threat to terrorize, and one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest, according to the Cleveland National Forest. He is being held in liue of $1 million bail.

While the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, published reports say that Clark lives in a cabin in the Holy Jim area. Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan, who also lives in the area, told the paper that Clark has long feuded with a neighbor and other cabin owners. He allegedly ran through the area last week screaming and sent Milligan an email warning that "this place will burn," Milligan said.

Clark is tentatively expected to appear in court Thursday.

The brusher has crossed into Riverside County and this morning is affecting the Horsethief Canyon area and pushing over the North Main Divide into the Indian Canyon area.

Increased fire activity raised the acreage from 3,399 acres at 7 p.m. yesterday to 4,137 acres as of 7:30 a.m. with 5 percent containment, according to Cleveland National Forest officials. Though, they remain unsure of what time the fire crossed into Riverside County.

New warning evacuation areas now include Horsethief Canyon, Rice Canyon, Sycamore Creek and McVicker Canyon. Firefighters are advising residents in these areas to be on high alert and ready to go.

A care and reception center was established at Temescal Canyon High School on El Toro Road in Lake Elsinore.

Small Animals can be evacuated to Animal Friends of the Valley at 33751 Mission Trail in Wildomar. Information was available by calling (951) 674-0618 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or (951) 506-5069 between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Sycamore Creek and Lake Elsinore are not under evacuation warnings at this time, according to the U.S. Forest Service said.

The blaze, which is burning in heavy fuels, was first reported at about 2:18 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6, near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.

Currently, the fire is burning downhill toward the Main Divide forest road at a "moderate rate of speed," within sight of Corona, El Cerrito, and Glen Ivy Hot Springs, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

According to fire officials the area has not burned in nearly 40 years.

Shane Gibson

Fire engines from various departments stage themselves in neighborhoods near the Holy Fire in the event of a firefight to protect homes, Aug. 8.

Firefighters are facing difficulties due to treacherous terrain, dense vegetation, low humidity and scorching temperatures.

There will be continued aerial and ground firefighting efforts today, with 10 helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft assisting ground crews, who are building bulldozer lines, authorities said.

About 385 firefighters were battling the blaze. With so many wildfires throughout the state, firefighting personnel has been spread thin, Bommarito said.

Two firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries Monday and at least one cabin was destroyed by the flames.

The phone numbers for residents to call for information on the Holy Fire have changed, according to Cal Fire. The new numbers are (714) 573-6200 and (714)-573-6202.

City News Service contributed to this story.

 

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