Firefighters Increase Containment Of Holy Fire, Suspect Due In Court Today

TRABUCO CANYON (CNS) - The wildfire burning in Orange and Riverside counties has charred 22,986 acres and was 83 percent contained today and the man accused of starting the fire is scheduled to be in court later this morning.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51,was jailed in Santa Ana in lieu of $1 million bail. During a court hearing Aug. 10, he labeled the arson charges against him a “lie” and insisted he was being threatened by gang members.

Firefighters focused their battle against the Holy Fire on the southern edge of the blaze in Orange County's Bell Canyon and to the north in Anderson Canyon in Riverside County.

The rugged terrain and heavy fuels in Bell Canyon will make final control of the fire difficult for crews on the ground and in the air.

Flare-ups and smoking vegetation are still visible near Santiago Peak in Orange County and will be continuously monitored by firefighters, according to a statement from the U.S. Forest Service.

All evacuations were lifted Wednesday. The Holy Jim trails and Trabuco Canyon in Orange County remain closed.

In Riverside County, all recreational areas and campgrounds in the fire area remain closed, including Blue Jay and Falcon Campgrounds, as well as areas north of Ortega (74) Highway and south of Blackstar Canyon Road and Skyline Drive.

School districts in Riverside County affected by the fire delayed their first days of classes until next week. The Lake Elsinore Unified School District and schools in the Corona-Norco Unified School District located south of the 91 Freeway and east of Border Avenue in Corona will begin classes on Aug 20.

More than a thousand firefighters worked the blaze that has destroyed 18 homes, 12 in Orange County and six in Riverside County since it erupted about 1:30 p.m., Aug. 6 near Holy Jim 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.

Photos: Getty Images

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