Crews battle growing wildfire near homes in California

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – Firefighters worked furiously Friday to keep, a Southern California wildfire from burning more homes while the crew in the north finally got the ground on deadly and destructive brands that burned for two weeks.

Aircraft have been making flight after flight, the dumping of water and light pink retardant to protect Lake Elsinore and the other foot communities as the fire sweeps through the dense, bone-dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest.

The Holy Fire — the name for the Holy Jim Canyon where it began on Monday grew to almost 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) after nearly doubling in size overnight. But the firefighters also made progress, with containment doubling from 5 to 10 percent.

Some slopes were not to burn under the watchful eye of the fire department as a way to use less fuel and make it harder for the flames to jump roads, in communities, as the winds pick up again.

Although the fire burned a dozen forest huts early on, only one house was lost Thursday as fire crews managed to rescue from the flames that stalked the hill and came up on the meter.

Standing in the ashes of his home on Friday, Pritchett told KNBC-TV that he and his brother continued to be a wall of fire roared nearby.

“I went up to him and said,” Let’s go,'” Pritchett said. “(There were) 100-foot flames right on top of the hill, right in front of me.”

No more houses were on fire on Friday, but some 20,000 people remained under evacuation orders.

Gusty wind kept driving the flames, but were expected to ease off overnight before inflating again Saturday afternoon.

The man charged with intentionally starting the fire appeared in court Friday but his arraignment was postponed.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was under threat and said that the arson charge against him was a lie. A judge ordered his bail to remain at $1 million.

“I can pay for that right away?” asked Clark, who could face life in prison if convicted.

The Holy Fire was one of the nearly 20 characters in California, which is seeing previously, more and more devastating bushfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the housing is deeper in the woods.

North of Sacramento, the crews were gaining the upper hand in a most destructive fire even if new forced more evacuations and the forecast called for hot, dry, windy weather.

The largest fire ever recorded in California, Mendocino Complex, was now threatening about 1,500 homes instead of 12,000 earlier in the week. It was 60 percent contained.

Rough terrain and heavy smoke made of hard work for firefighters, but containment lines in the south held, state fire officials said.

The blaze has destroyed 119 houses, but none in the past few days.

The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed six people and burned more than 1,000 homes was 51 percent contained.

However, evacuations were ordered for communities in the vicinity of a new fire in the Fall River Mills, about 70 miles northeast of Redding. Approximately 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Hat Fire, that started Thursday near a highway.

The fire brigade helped by the cooler weather have made good progress against a blaze burning for almost a month near Yosemite National Park in the northern part of the state. The park was set to reopen Tuesday after a two-week closure, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.


Myers reported from Los Angeles. AP journalists Michael Balsamo and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Amy Taxin in Orange County, and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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