California Homes; 20,000 Flee


Officials also gained more control over two other major Northern California wildfires, including the largest in recorded state history, even as evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 70 miles northeast of Redding.

The Holy Fire burns in the Cleveland National Forest behind homes along Crystal Ridge Court in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Wednesday. It is 49% contained, and has killed eight people, including three firefighters. Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, allegedly wrote to a fire chief two weeks ago, CNN reported. In addition to the Holy Jim fire, he is accused of starting a fire in Trabuco Canyon.

He has also been charged with threatening neighbors - one of whom lost his cabin in the fire - and resisting arrest.

"I've been trying for years to get someone to pay attention and nobody has really had the opportunity to do that until now", he said. A resident of Holy Jim has been charged with arson and other crimes and appeared in a jailhouse courtroom Friday.

North of San Francisco, fire crews continued progress in corralling the twin fires known as the Mendocino Complex.

Clark refused to go to court on Thursday, so his arraignment was rescheduled for today, according to the Associated Press.

About 20,000 residents are under mandatory evacuation orders after a Southern California fire - which authorities say was set intentionally - spread this week.

The fire started several days ago near Holy Jim Canyon in Orange County, allegedly on objective by a local resident.

"It's right there on the hill. and there's active firefighting going on right now" to keep the flames from homes, said Thanh Nguyen of the Garden Grove Fire Department, who is one of the spokesman for the firefighting effort.

The fire threatened communities near the inland resort of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.

"I was asleep. I had two earplugs in", he told the reporter.

He faces up to life in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors, who said the fire has damaged or destroyed at least 14 homes.

Cal Fire crews are helping federal firefighters put out flames in national forests and one that has reached Yosemite National Park, prompting its closure at the height of tourist season.

The Holy Fire is being fed by thick, tinder-dry brush that hasn't burned in almost four decades. The 51-year-old state health inspector congratulated the couple and left quietly to head back to her house in the city of Lake Elsinore and grab important documents.

Earlier in the day, Johnson told residents in a video posted on Twitter to stay vigilant and listen to evacuation orders. His wife, children and dog had evacuated as the bright orange flames from the Holy Fire swept through the canyon, sending ash and billowing black smoke into his neighborhood.