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By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

Firefighters continue to battle Holy Fire, blaze tops 18,000 acres after crossing into Riverside County

Firefighters actively engage "but cannot get ahead of the fire"

 

Last updated 8/10/2018 at 11:30am

Shane Gibson

A Cal Fire firefighter from San Luis Obispo prepares to battle flames threatening a home above McVicker Canyon in Lake Elsinore during the fourth day of the Holy Fire, Aug. 9.

Firefighters are continuing the battle against the reported 18,137-acre Holy Fire today as it rages through the northwest area of Lake Elsinore. The fire crossed from Orange County into Riverside County Aug. 8.

"We continue to actively engage, but cannot get ahead of the fire," Cleveland National Forest announced this morning on its Twitter page.

While published reports are announcing the loss of a home in the area, Valley News has yet to independently verify this information. A dozen cabins have already been lost in Holy Jim Canyon, where the fire was ignited by an alleged arsonist, Monday, Aug. 6.

Thursday night at a community meeting at Pins 'n Pockets in Lake Elsinore, fire officials announced the blaze was at 5 percent containment and more than 1,000 personnel are dispatched fighting the fire with 10 water-dropping helicopters and seven fixed wing aircraft.

"We are still making progress on the fire. As the fire continues to grow, our containment lines remain the same," Operations Section Chief Sal Reyes with Southern California Interagency Management Team 1, said. "So we are making good progress."

See Shane Gibson photos here

According to Lake Elsinore Police Chief Daniel Anne, there are multiple police patrols in mandatory evacuation areas to prevent looting. Anne said there have been no incidents of looting.

An unstable fire environment with a complex set of air patterns including tropical humidity and monsoonal flow, expected to last until next week are making firefighting efforts difficult, according to Meteorologist Pete Curran with Southern California Interagency Management Team 1.

Steep terrain of the area and overgrown brush are also hampering firefighting efforts

State of Emergency

Late Thursday evening California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area at the request of 67th District Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez who announced the declaration on her Twitter account, shortly after addressing those gathered for the standing room only community meeting.

"Thank you @JerryBrownGov for responding swiftly to my request that a State of Emergency be issued for the #Holyfire, we need all the help we can get," she tweeted.

The state of emergency opens the door for state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering and making response and recovery funding available for those affected by the blaze.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore and Rancho Capistrano and for all homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southeast of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway.

Voluntary evacuations are in place for Machado and Shoreline communities in Lake Elsinore.

A care and reception center is open for residents at Temescal Canyon High School. Large animals are being accepted at Elsinore High School. Small animals should be taken to San Jacinto Animal Shelter since Animal Friends of the Valley is now at capacity, a Facebook post by the city of Lake Elsinore said.

"Residents are urged to follow orders, be prepared, and to stay safe out there," the City of Lake Elsinore said.

Road Closures

Caltrans has closed the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano because of the Holy Fire, according to agency spokeswoman Terri Kasinga. Other road closures include Mountain Street at Lake Street, Orange Grove Way at Lake Street, Broadway at Grand Avenue, Lincoln Street at Grand Avenue, and McVicker Canyon Road at Grand Avenue. Temescal Canyon Road is closed between Indian Truck Trail and Lake Street to allow fire apparatus access in the area, the Cleveland National Forest reported

School Closures

All schools in Menifee Union, Lake Elsinore Unified, Perris Union High School and the Perris Elementary school districts are closed Friday, Aug. 10.

Menifee Union School District rescheduled all elementary school Back to School nights for Thursday, Aug. 23, and said that school will resume Aug. 13 unless otherwise notified.

Air Quality

Air quality has reached unhealthy levels for Perris and Temecula Valley according to South Coast AQMD. Anyone with breathing issues should remain inside. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, meteorological conditions may bring smoke from the Holy Fire into portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Air quality may reach Unhealthy levels or higher in areas directly impacted by smoke.

The smoke is likely to impact Interstate 15, officials warn, predicting slowdowns on the I-15 corridor.

Lake Closed

Lake Elsinore remains closed for recreational use, according to the City of Lake Elsinore's Facebook page.

"Due to the Holy Fire and the need for water planes to have unimpeded access to the water to combat the fire, Lake Elsinore is closed for recreational use," the city said. "We will pass along any information through our City website (http://www.lake-elsinore.org) or other social media outlets."

Firefighter Injuries

Two two firefighters have been injured in the last hour battling the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest. One crewman suffered a twisted ankle, and the other fell and fractured his knee in the area of Bosley Lane and Glen Eden Road, roughly 2 miles north of Lake Elsinore.

Ambulances were sent to retrieve and transport the firefighters.

Arraignment Postponed

Shane Gibson

Flames crest a hill top in the rugged terrain of McVicker Canyon and threatens homes along the canyon's ridge in Lake Elsinore during the fourth day of the Holy Fire, Aug. 9.

Forrest Gordon Clark, who was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, 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 Thursday. Clark could face 10 years to life in prison. He also faces sentencing enhancements for arson of multiple structures.

Clark refused to leave his jail cell Thursday, so his arraignment was postponed until later today.

When investigators went to question Clark he abrasively told them they weren't allowed on his property in Holy Jim Canyon, the flashpoint of the fire, Duff said. He is accused of threatening his neighbors, including one whose cabin burned down an hour later, Duff said.

Residents can call (714) 573-6200 and (714) 573-6202 for more information on the Holy Fire. Sign up to receive emergency alerts at http://www.RivCoReady.org/AlertRivCo tailored to specific addresses and communities.

Stephanie Lai contributed to this story.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

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