Firefighters gain ground on one-week-old Holy Fire, some evacuations lifted

(KGTV) - Fire crews continue to make progress in their battle against the Holy Fire, which has burned nearly 23,000 acres in the last seven days.

U.S. Forest Service officials said Monday that the fire that erupted in the Cleveland National Forest on Aug. 6 has burned 22,714 acres and is 52 percent contained.

At its peak, the Holy Fire forced more than 22,000 people in parts of Orange and Riverside counties to evacuate and led to the closure of numerous roadways. By Sunday, most of the evacuation orders were lifted, but a voluntary evacuation order was issued for about 1,300 people in a retirement community between the Santa Ana Mountains and Interstate 15 just north of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.

People living in the Trilogy Glen Ivy community were put on notice to leave, according to Cleveland National Forest fire commanders in a warning issued at noon Sunday. Residents of the development's single-family homes and condos who have trouble driving in the dark were advised to leave now in a message posted on the Trilogy Glen Ivy website.

Additionally, state Route 74 -- known as the Ortega Highway -- remained closed Monday as the firefighting effort continued.

HOLY FIRE:

Mandatory evacuations were lifted for the Lake Elsinore community in Riverside and Glen Eden, officials said. Mandatory evacuations remained for El Cariso, Blue Jay and Rancho Capistrano areas.

In Orange County, Trabuco and Holy Jim canyons remained under mandatory evacuation orders, and all campgrounds in the Trabuco Ranger District were closed. Back country fire roads were closed to hiking and bicycling, including Trabuco Creek, Maple Springs, North Main Divide, Bedford and Indian Truck Trail.

Two real estate developments in Orange County, on the western flank of the fire, are also named Trilogy, and their evacuation status was not changed.

According to U.S. Forest Service officials, 1,450 firefighters and dozens of aircraft are assigned to the Holy Fire. The treacherous terrain has led to the heavy use of water- and retardant-dropping aircraft during the seven-day-old blaze.

Officials confirmed at least 14 structures were destroyed in the fire.

The fire was first reported Aug. 6 near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads in the Cleveland National Forest. It exploded in size over the course of three days, making its way into the Lake Elsinore area of Riverside County by Aug. 9.

Two days after it ignited, authorities arrested 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark during the investigation into the fire's cause. Clark is accused of intentionally starting the fire, and he 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.

During his arraignment on Aug. 10, Clark called the charges against him lies and exhibited bizarre behavior throughout the hearing.

His arraignment was continued to Aug. 17, and Clark’s bail remains at $1 million.


City News Service contributed to this report

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