California fire officials say more than 14,000 firefighters are battling massive fires across the state, including the Mendocino Complex in Northern California, which now being treated as the largest wildfire in state history. (Aug. 8)
The man suspected of igniting the Holy Fire in Southern California was charged on Thursday with three counts of felony arson, among other offenses.
Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of setting off a blaze that has now burned nearly 10,000 acres in Orange and Riverside counties, damaging or destroying at least 14 structures. As of Thursday morning, the fire was just 5 percent contained.
In addition to arson, the Orange County District Attorney charged Clark with two felony counts of resisting arrest and with making criminal threats. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Bail has been set at $1 million.
According to the Orange County Register, Clark sent an email last week that allegedly said, “This place will burn.’’
The Holy Fire broke out Monday at the Holy Jim Canyon community where Clark lives and has forced some 20,000 people to evacuate.
“We expect to bring him to justice for these terrible crimes,” said Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office.
California is immersed in what may go down as the worst fire season ever, with 18 current wildfires, including the Mendocino Complex blaze that has burned more than 300,000 acres. That is the largest fire in state history.
The Carr Fire near the northern city of Redding claimed its eighth victim early Thursday morning when a heavy equipment mechanic crashed on Highway 99 in Tehama County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.
News reports depict Clark as a troubled person, and during a Wednesday news conference, Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer referred to him as “a monster.”
“Who would go out with low humidity, high wind and the highest heat temperatures this time of the year and intentionally set the forest on fire?” Spitzer said.
In an ABC News video from Monday, Clark is seen confronting firefighters, then waving foreign money in front of the camera and saying, “Somebody’s been in my place and stolen …’’
Also Monday, a freelance photojournalist recorded a brief interview with Clark in which he denied knowing who started the fire, saying he was asleep with earplugs on.
“I’ve been up for like 20-some-odd days,” Clark said on the video recording. “I just woke up, dude. I got burned. I woke up and my stuff was all on fire.”
The Register reported Clark sent Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan threatening emails last week and has had run-ins with neighbors.
The newspaper also said a man with Clark’s name and birthdate was held against his will at a treatment center for mental illness in 1996.
“He has issues,’’ Milligan is quoted as saying. “I hope they get him.’’
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