Southern California’s ‘Holy Fire’ has burned 9,614 acres, suspected arsonist under arrest

A truck passes by flames during the Ranch Fire in Clearlake Oaks Calif

A truck passes by flames during the Ranch Fire in Clearlake Oaks Calif

Crews are working furiously to keep a Southern California wildfire from burning more homes south of Los Angeles while firefighters in the north have finally gained ground against major blazes.

With so many wildfires throughout the state, incident commanders initially struggled to get enough firefighters on the lines of the Holy Fire.

The Holy Fire - named for Holy Jim Canyon where it began Monday - grew to almost 85 square kilometres by Saturday morning.

Michael Milligan, chief of the Holy Jim Volunteer Fire Department, told the newspaper that Clark had a decade-long feud with neighbors and sent him threatening emails last week, including one that said, "this place will burn". 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. The fire has grown quickly because of high temperatures and the area's steep terrain, according to the Cleveland National Forest.

The toll from the California wildfires rose to 10 Thursday after a heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the Carr Fire was killed in a road accident, authorities said.

Clark was arrested Tuesday night in connection with the fire, which is burning into its fourth day and has burned more than 18,000 acres.

A plane used to fight the fire had to make an emergency landing Friday following a bird strike, officials said.

But this isn't the first time smoke from the western wildfires is spreading all the way to the East Coast.

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The so-called "Holy Fire" started on Monday in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has already burned 12 structures and is only five per cent contained, authorities say.

Although it's not the largest fire burning in the state, there are growing concerns about how it could affect residential communities - including Lake Elsinore.

If Clark is guilty, a Washington Post interview with Milligan suggests that police could have prevented the arson. Clark has been charged with multiple counts of arson and accused of making threats prior to the blaze.

For two weeks a tiresome haze and the faint smell of smoke from more than a dozen distant blazes have blanketed many California cities, forcing summer campers to stay inside, obscuring normally bright skylines and leaving cars covered with ash.

Many schools have been forced to close, and more evacuation orders were being issued.

The Mendocino Complex, made of two separate blazes, has been declared the most destructive fire in the state's history. They were trying to keep the flames from devouring neighborhoods and taking lives, as very big fires still burning in Northern California have done.

Two firefighters were injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire, which now ranks as the largest fire on record in the state. The fires were 51 percent contained.

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