Arson suspect calls charges a ‘lie’ as California’s Holy Fire grows

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested late Tuesday on suspicion of setting California's Holy Fire and making criminal threats.

The suspect charged with deliberately starting Southern California’s Holy Fire — which began Monday and has spread across more than 19,000 acres — called his arson charge a “lie,” reports said Friday.  

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested late Tuesday and appeared in court Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

“It’s a lie,” Clark said when Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Vickie Hix discussed the criminal charges, the Orange County Register reported.

She reminded him that “these are just allegations.”

Clark reportedly made several outbursts and claimed his life was being threatened.

A court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million.

A firefighter hoses down hot spots caused by a wildfire Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in Lake Elsinore, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“May I pay for that immediately?” asked Clark, who could face life in prison if convicted.

The Holy Fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it began Monday — nearly doubled in size overnight between Thursday and Friday.

“We’re dealing with steep terrain, dry fuel and wind in the area,” Thanh Nguyen, public information officer with SoCal Team 1, in charge of communications for the Holy Fire, told the Register. “All of that contributes to fire behavior.”

Aircraft have been making flight after flight, dumping water and bright pink retardant to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities as the fire sweeps through the dense, bone-dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest.

The fire had destroyed at least 12 structures as of Friday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.  

But firefighters also made progress, with containment doubling from 5 to 10 percent.

“The air operations have been relentless,” Nguyen told the Union-Tribune. “When we drop so many gallons of water, we’re doing it to overwhelm the heat with the coolness of the water.”

Some hillsides were being allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.

Although the fire burned a dozen forest cabins early on, only one home was lost Thursday as fire crews managed to fend off flames that stalked downhill and came right up to yards.

Lake Elsinore is about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  


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