The Holy Fire has burned 10,000 acres in Orange and Riverside counties and now stands at only five percent contained. Gov. Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the area.
It's one of almost 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. It has chewed through 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) of dense chaparral and was only 5 percent contained.
A spokesperson for the incident management team said the fire grew close to El Cariso Village up on the hill above Lake Elsinore but it had not crossed the Ortega Highway, SR 74.
Clark has been charged with one felony count each of aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats and two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.
A little farther north, the Carr Fire has claimed some 178,000 acres and remains just half-contained, as well.
"Smoke from the western fires is making it all the way to the East Coast and beyond", the National Weather Service said in a tweet.
But the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says Thursday it will still take several weeks to fully surround the massive wildfire in Northern California, called the Mendocino Complex Fire, because it's burning in steep terrain that's hard to reach.
Fire chiefs were this morning building barriers and constructing containment lines to slow down the approaching wildfire.
Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office, said her office would "bring him to justice for these awful crimes". Officials are wary that the fire could threaten more homes if the wind were to change direction or the fire were to branch into drainage basins.
"I was asleep. I had two earplugs in", he told the reporter.
Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson is one of 21,000 residents who was told to leave and fire chiefs are urging people to follow her lead. Early on, the blaze that erupted Monday burned a dozen cabins.
A resident of the canyon, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, was charged Thursday with arson and other crimes that could send him to prison for life.
Fires also continue to rage in Northern California.
Onlookers are silhouetted against the reflection of a wildfire burning in the Cleveland National Forest in Lake Elsinore late Wednesday. 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.
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