Crews Work to Protect S. California Homes from Holy Fire

A wildfire in Southern California that began Monday grew to 85 square kilometers (33 square miles) in size Saturday as firefighters worked to keep the flames from engulfing residential areas in Holy Jim Canyon.

Aircraft have been dumping pink fire retardant on homes in the Lake Elsinore area and other communities in the foothills of Cleveland National Forest while 20,000 people were under evacuation orders.

A man charged with deliberately starting the Holy Fire, Forrest Clark, 51, appeared in court Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

Clark made several erratic outbursts during his court appearance. He called the charges against him “a lie” and asked if he could pay immediately the $1 million bail set for his release.

Meanwhile in Northern California, the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in California history, is 60 percent contained, according to the state firefighting agency CAL FIRE. Officials said the fire still threatened about 1,500 homes, down from the 12,000 in its path earlier in the week.

But other fires continued to develop. On Thursday, the Hat Fire started in the Fall River Mills area, 112 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of the city of Redding. Officials said about 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman announced that the park would reopen Tuesday after a two-week closure because of fires.

This is shaping up to be one of California’s worst years for wildfires. CAL FIRE said the state has already spent more than half its annual $442 million firefighting budget since the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

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