Crews gain ground on wildfires
LAKE ELSINORE: Firefighters made significant progress trying to tamp down a wildfire that threatened homes and has been raging for days south of Los Angeles, officials said on Saturday.
Aircraft have been making flight after flight, dumping water and bright pink retardant to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities as the fire sweeps through the dense, bone-dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest.
The Holy Fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it began on Aug 6 — grew to nearly 85 square kilometres by Saturday morning. But firefighters also made progress, with containment rising from 10% to 29%.
High temperatures and dry grass and brush have made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze. Some hillsides were being allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.
Although the fire burned a dozen forest cabins early on, only one home was lost on Thursday as fire crews managed to fend off flames that stalked downhill and came right up to yards.
On Saturday, officials allowed some residents to return to their homes in Lake Elsinore, but others still remained under evacuation orders.
The man accused of deliberately starting the fire appeared in court on Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.
Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened and saying the arson charge against him was a lie. A court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at US$1 million (33 million baht).
The Holy Fire was one of nearly 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.
A fire that broke out near the communities of Fairfield and Vacaville had destroyed a home and two other structures, according to the Vacaville Fire Department. A firefighter suffered a minor injury battling the blaze, which grew to about 6.9 square kilometres and was 70% contained by Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The largest fire ever recorded in California — the Mendocino Complex — is burning north of Sacramento and has destroyed 119 homes but none in recent days. The fire had reached 1,315 square kilometres and was 67% contained by Saturday.
The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed eight people and burned more than 1,000 homes was 55% contained.
Elsewhere in the West, a firefighter was injured on Saturday and residents in parts of two Washington state cities were told to evacuate due to a growing wildfire.
Authorities said that the Grass Valley fire started on Saturday morning and windy conditions helped it grow to 3.8 square kilometres.
Grant County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kyle Foreman told the Spokesman Review that the injured firefighter was flown to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Centre.
King Bass, 6, left, sits and watches the Holy Fire burn from on top of his parents’ car as his sister Princess, 5, rests her head on his shoulder in Lake Elsinore.
Firefighters watch the flames approach while battling the ‘Holy’ wildfire in Corona, California.