Mandatory evacuations in Orange and Riverside counties are in effect Thursday as firefighters battle the Holy Fire for a fourth straight day. As of early Thursday morning, U.S. Forest Service officials said the fire has burned 10,236 acres and is just 5 percent contained. At least 12 structures have been confirmed destroyed due to the fire.
The Holy Fire, which erupted Monday afternoon in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest, is believed to have been started intentionally. Authorities arrested 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark on suspicion of arson and other charges in connection with the fire. He is being held on $1 million bail and is expected to be formally charged Thursday.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, authorities said they believe the fire began “around and near” Clark’s cabin in Holy Jim Canyon.
The fire was first reported Monday near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads in the Orange County area of the Cleveland National Forest. However, by Wednesday it advanced into the Lake Elsinore area of Riverside County. Officials said 639 firefighters were assigned to the fire, with at least 16 air tankers, 10 helicopters and other aircraft supporting ground crews. The steep and treacherous terrain has made it difficult for ground crews and fire engines to get close to the flames, prompting the heavy use of water drops from the air.
EVACUATION ORDERS/ROAD CLOSURES
- Mandatory evacuations are in place for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southwest of Grand Avenue to the Ortega Highway.
- Voluntary evacuations are in effect for the Shoreline Community.
- Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for Trabuco Canyon, Holy Jim Canyon, Mayhew Canyon, Sycamore Creek, Glen Eden, Horsethief Canyon, Rice Canyon, Rice Lake, McVicker Canyon, El Cariso Village, Rancho Capistrano, Blue Jay and Indian Canyon, and Machado. Road closures will continue until evacuation orders are lifted.
- Campgrounds in the Trabuco Ranger District were also closed.
- Eastbound state Route 74 (known as the Ortega Highway) in the area is shut down from Lake Elsinore to Orange County. Officials said residents in the SR-74 corridor must travel westbound only.
- Temescal Canyon High School, located at 28755 El Toro Road in Lake Elsinore
- San Juan Hills High School, located at 29211 Stallion Ridge in San Juan Capistrano
- The Holy Fire information center is taking calls from the public at (714) 628-7085 and (714) 573-6210.
All schools in the Menifee Unified School District in Riverside County were be closed Thursday due to poor air quality caused by the fire.A care and reception center was established at Temescal Canyon High School on El Toro Road in Lake Elsinore. An evacuation center is also open at San Juan Hills High School at 29211 Stallion Ridge in San Juan Capistrano. Small animals can be taken to Animal Friends of the Valley at 33751 Mission Trail in Wildomar.
Information is available by calling (951) 674-0618 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or (951) 506-5069 between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. For those under mandatory evacuation, animals large and small can also be taken to Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, 30753 La Plata Road in San Juan Capistrano.Livestock was being accepted at Elsinore High School in the 21800 block of Canyon Drive.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory through Friday in Orange County and portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties because of the Holy fire. In Los Angeles, the advisory covers the east and south San Gabriel Valley and Pomona/Walnut Valley.
U.S. Forest Service officials said: “Fire will continue to spread south, east and north with only limited spread to the west. Fire to spread into new areas, and aligning for strong head-fire runs and the potential for an ‘Elsinore’ down slope event. There is a slight possibility of monsoonal flow over the area that could bring some increase in relative humidity and a cooling of a few degrees, however, cumulus buildup over the fire and the resulting disruption of local wind pattern coupled with the potential for critical winds over the fire due to in flow and out flow winds could rapidly increase fire behavior.
Excessive heat warning for the fire area has been issued. Weather conditions with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees coupled with a relative humidity below 15% will provide conditions for extreme fire behavior as well as heat illness issues for the fire fighters and the public.”
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