California wildfires: Thousands evacuated as Lake Elsinore threatened

Charlene Craig
August 11, 2018

"Hopefully I have a house in the morning".

One resident wasn't so lucky.

"Until this thing is barking at my door, I'm going to stick with it", he said.

"It's right there on the hill. and there's active firefighting going on right now" to keep the flames from homes, said Thanh Nguyen of the Garden Grove Fire Department, who is one of the spokesman for the firefighting effort.

Authorities say he intentionally started the fire on Monday after a decade-long dispute with neighbours. The fire has chewed through 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) of dense chaparral and is only 5 percent contained.

Incredible photos show apocalyptic scenes as firefighters try to battle the blaze.

Visitors should expect limited hours and visitor services next week as the park returns to normal, he said.

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The area burned by the blaze is now larger than the cities of Los Angeles. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties Thursday night.

About 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Hat Fire, which began Thursday near a highway.

Hundreds of firefighters are building barriers and constructing containment lines in an attempt to slow approaching wildfires threatening to torch thousands of homes in a lakeside community southeast of Los Angeles.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said the area has few natural barriers to slow flames and terrain that firefighters can't get to.

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

"Stay safe", she said as smoke billowed behind her. "God bless". "Man, you know, we (are) just trying to get the job done".

The fire was deliberately set.

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The Holy Fire is one of about three dozen significant fires burning across the West Coast, with a majority in California. Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, made an animated court appearance, marked by several outbursts. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He is now expected to appear in court Friday and is facing life in prison if convicted.

Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan told the Orange County Register that Clark was screaming in the community and sent an email that said "this place will burn" last week.

No major injuries linked to the Holy Fire have been reported, but the Carr Fire in Northern California has claimed at least eight lives, according to officials.

Crews braced for "extreme fire behavior" over the weekend, according to the federal fire information website InciWeb.

Two firefighters were injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire, which now ranks as the largest fire on record in the state.

The second biggest is the Carr Fire in Shasta County, also in Northern California. Air quality may reach unhealthy levels or higher in areas directly impacted by smoke.

The haze stretches to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and almost every major population center in between has suffered air quality considered risky for children, the elderly and people with asthma.

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Meanwhile, the months that are historically California's most risky fire months are yet to come.

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