Holy Fire Nears Full Containment

LAKE ELSINORE (CNS) - The Holy Fire burning in Riverside and Orange counties was 92 percent contained today after consuming 22,887 acres, with full containment expected by Tuesday, authorities said.

Crews continued to mop up the burn areas and extend containment lines as the army of firefighters was reduced to about 550, fire officials said.

Firefighters focused their battle on the northern edge of the blaze in Anderson Canyon in Riverside County and to the south in Orange County's Bell Canyon. Flare-ups and smoking vegetation were still visible in Anderson Canyon.

All evacuations were lifted Wednesday, but all recreational areas and campgrounds in the fire area in Riverside County remained 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.

In Orange County, the rugged terrain and heavy fuels in Bell Canyon will make gaining final control of the fire difficult for crews on the ground and in the air.

The Holy Jim trails and Trabuco Canyon in Orange County remained closed.

On Friday, a judge suspended the criminal case against the man accused of starting the fire pending mental evaluations. Those reports are due to be presented to the court in a hearing set for Oct. 10.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, has been jailed 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.

The blaze destroyed 12 homes 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.

Photo: Getty Images

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