Flames inch close to California houses thousands evacuate

LOS ANGELES – An intentional wildfire grew dangerously close to homes in Southern California, on Thursday, evacuation orders expanded with more than 20,000 inhabitants, although some homeowners stayed behind to fend off the flames themselves.

Firefighters fought a desperate battle to stop the Holy Fire from reaching homes as the blaze rose through the Cleveland National Forest above the city of Lake Elsinore and the surrounding communities. They tried to keep the flames from consuming areas, and the taking of life, when massive forest fires still burning in Northern California have done.

“Our main focus this afternoon was to get everyone out safely,” said Thanh Nguyen, a spokesman for the crews battling the Sacred Fire.

As the fire raged closer, some residents ignoring evacuation orders stood in driveways or on top of roofs and used garden hoses to their houses to get wet and to fight the flames as smoke billowed around them.

Joe Rodriguez was using a pressure washer to wet terrace in the McVicker Canyon Park neighborhood on Thursday morning.

Even though the area is under an evacuation order, the 38-year-old Rodriguez told the San Bernardino Sun that he decided to stay to help with the saving of his house.

“Until this thing is barking at my door, I’m going to stick with it,” he said.

He said that the line of the fire fell on the hill above his house has so far checked the fire’s advance, along with the helicopter water drops.

Rodriguez’s wife and two daughters evacuated.

Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson and her family were among the families to evacuate Thursday, Councilman Bob Magee said at a meeting about the fire.

Earlier in the day, Johnson told residents in a video posted on Twitter in order to continue to be vigilant and to listen to the evacuation orders.

“Be safe,” she said as smoke billowed out behind her. “God bless.”

Magee told residents at the community meeting to follow the mayor’s example and listen to evacuation warnings and orders.

“I also want to remind you not to panic,” he said. “We are in good hands, the best in the world.

“Pray for our city. Pray for our people,” he said.

Firefighters worked in 100-plus degree (38-degree Celsius) heat. Aircraft above bright pink lines on fire wall, the fire of homes. The 16-square-mile (41-square kilometer) blaze was only 5 percent contained.

The brand is named after the Holy Jim Canyon, where the burst of 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.

Clark refused to go to court Thursday and his arraignment was postponed until Friday. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

Wind gusting to nearly 20 mph (32 km / h) at the time drove the fire through dense chaparral on the foot slopes and along ridgetops, sending a huge column of smoke smeared the sky for miles around.

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

Warm temperatures, erratic and strong winds, and tinder-dry vegetation are the same conditions that caused forest fires in the North of California to explode in a deadly conflagrations in the space of two weeks.

North of San Francisco, the fire department continued the progress in the control of the twin-fire known as the Mendocino Complex. Since its start on July 27, the fire — that will be contested as a single incident, have destroyed more than 100 houses in the vicinity of Clear Lake and has grown to become the largest fire in recorded state history.

The area burned by the blaze is now larger than the cities of Los Angeles. The fires were 51 percent contained.

In the Rescue environment, the year of the deadly fire was nearly half surrounded and burning in remote and rugged forest, grass, shrubs, and trees are so dry from years of drought and recent heat that the potential remained for the fire to grow, fire officials said.

The Carr Fire, as it is called, killed six people, including two firefighters and burned more than 1,000 homes. Two other people — one is on fire heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the fire, and a utility worker trying to restore power in the area of the fire were killed in a car accident.


Michael Balsamo, and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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