More Holy Fire Evacuations Lifted As Firefighters Make Progress

posted by City News Service - 

TRABUCO CANYON (CNS) - A mandatory evacuation order was lifted for another community affected by the Holy Fire, which is 72 percent contained today after blackening 22,986 acres in the Cleveland National Forest in Orange and Riverside counties.

The mandatory evacuation order for the Mystic Oaks community near the border of Orange and Riverside counties was lifted, along with evacuation orders for El Cariso and Rancho Capistrano areas in Riverside County.

In Orange County, Trabuco and Holy Jim canyons remain under mandatory evacuation orders, and all campgrounds in the Trabuco Ranger District are closed. Back country fire roads are closed to hiking and bicycling, including Trabuco Creek, Maple Springs, North Main Divide, Bedford and Indian Truck Trail.

In a positive development for motorists, a long stretch of the Ortega (74) Highway that has been closed between Orange and Riverside counties due to the fire was reopened to traffic Tuesday.


Authorities warned residents returning to the area that power is still out along the Ortega (74) Highway corridor and Edison crews are working to restore power in the area.

The Blue Jay, Falcon and Los Pinos campgrounds in Riverside County all remained closed, along with trails leading into the burn area.

A voluntary evacuation order for the Trilogy area in Temescal Valley, also in Riverside County, also remained in effect.

Although the number of evacuation orders continued to dwindle, an evacuation center remains open at Temescal Canyon High School at 28755 El Toro Road in Lake Elsinore.

Aided by 14 water-dropping helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft, firefighters on the ground will work to build fire lines to the north and east of the fire's point of origin in Holy Jim Canyon, according to the Forest Service. The 1,399 firefighters battling the blaze will focus on protecting homes and buildings.

School districts affected by the fire delayed their first days of classes until next week. The Lake Elsinore Unified School District will go back on Aug. 20.

Schools in the Corona-Norco Unified School District located south of the 91 Freeway and east of Border Avenue in Corona also pushed back the first day of school until next Monday.

Firefighters were able to save a threatened school in the district, Rice Canyon Elementary, from flames, stopping them just before they reached the campus.

The city of Corona announced a day camp to help working parents of students this week. It will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fees are $110 for residents and $140 for non-residents, with priority for parents of students at fire-affected schools.

As of Monday, 18 homes had been confirmed destroyed -- 12 in Orange County and six in Riverside County. The Orange County structures lost were believed to be primarily in the Holy Jim Canyon area, the flashpoint of the fire.

The fire was initially reported at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 6 near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said. The fire dramatically increased in size near the Horsethief Canyon area on Aug. 8, then jumped the North Main Divide dirt road, burning into the Lake Elsinore area of Riverside County, Bommarito said.

Bommarito noted that the area probably hasn't burned since the early 1980s.

The man accused of starting the fire, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, remained jailed in Santa Ana in lieu of $1 million bail. He labeled the arson charges against him a “lie” and insisted he was being threatened by gang members.

When a court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million, Clark said he could easily afford it and asked whether he could pay it right away.

Clark was charged with aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats, all felonies, as well as two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.

His arraignment was delayed until this coming Friday, and he could face 10 years to life in prison.

Residents seeking information on the Holy Fire may call (714) 573- 6200, or register at rivcoready.org for text updates.

Photo: Getty Images

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