BREAKING NEWS One dead after cyclist hit by car in Fort Wayne Full Story

Wildfires threaten thousands of homes

CNN's Stephanie Elam reports from Lake Elsinore, California, where wildfires continue to threaten around 17,000 homes and buildings.

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 12:53 PM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 1:13 PM

The man accused of starting a Southern California blaze that forced the evacuation of 20,000 residents sent a text to a volunteer fire chief two weeks ago saying, "The place is going to burn," the chief said Thursday.

The Holy Fire started Monday in the Cleveland National Forest's Holy Jim Canyon and has so far destroyed a dozen structures, according to fire authorities.

Holy Jim Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Milligan, 71, says he's known the arson suspect, Forrest Gordon Clark, for decades and has long warned that he posed a danger to the community.

"I've been trying for years to get someone to pay attention and nobody has really had the opportunity to do that until now," he said.

Milligan said he was so wary of Clark that he avoided altogether going to the area of the remote Orange County canyon where the 51-year-old Clark lives. Nonetheless, Clark came to his home two weeks ago to return items he said he had "borrowed" from the fire department, he said.

"I said, 'I want nothing to do with you, Forrest. Just go,' " Milligan said. "He was being gentlemanly in the beginning, and turned and then swore at me, and turned and left and was quoting the Bible. Later, he came back and told me what a jerk I was and everyone was after him."

The next morning, Milligan said, he got a mysterious text from an unknown number: "911 call sheriff." Milligan called back and though the reception was poor in the canyon, he recognized Clark's voice, he said. Later came an expletive-laden text that ended with the ominous warning: "The place is going to burn just like you planned."

"I had no idea what he meant," Milligan said, adding that Clark sent emails to other people in which he talked about burning something.

"Remember when Gandalf said, 'If there is a dragon in the neighborhood, include it in your plans?' " Milligan asked, paraphrasing the wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."

"He was the dragon."

Clark denied involvement?

Clark is being held at the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail and is expected to make a court appearance Friday.

According to a criminal complaint filed Thursday, he is charged with aggravated arson, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest, criminal threats, two counts of resisting and deterring an executive officer, and arson burning multiple structures.

The charges being leveled against Clark carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, said Susan Schroeder of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

"Arson is a terrible crime that destroys dreams," she said in a press conference.

Witness statements, physical evidence and burn patterns connect Clark to the fire, said Shane Sherwood with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Before he was arrested, Clark told a freelance cameraman he was asleep when the fire started and had no idea how it began.

"Who would go out with low humidity and high wind and highest heat temperatures this time of year and intentionally set the forest on fire?" asked Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer during Wednesday's press conference.

'The Holy Hell Fire'

The Holy Fire continues burning across Orange and Riverside counties, two of the state's most populous, and as of Thursday night had scorched more than 10,236 acres. It remains only 5% contained, according to the national forest's Twitter feed.

"Firefighters continue to battle the blaze around the clock," the national forest tweet said. "We expect favorable weather conditions this weekend to help these efforts."

Schools have been closed in Menifee, Perris and Lake Elsinore.

With temperatures soaring past 100 degrees, an excessive heat warning has been issued for the fire area.

Although it's not the largest fire burning in the state, there are growing concerns about how it could affect residential communities, including Lake Elsinore. Some small communities in Riverside County are under mandatory evacuation orders affecting about 7,000 residential structures, according to authorities.

"We know this district burns, but it should never burn because of an intentional act," Spitzer said. "This shouldn't be called the Holy Jim Fire; this should be called the Holy Hell Fire."

Residents are scared and fleeing their homes, he said.

"They're leaving property behind. They're putting everything they can in the back of their cars as quickly as possible."

Fire officials warned residents to heed evacuation orders.

"Even if you're miles away, you want to be prepared if you're near the fire area or in an environment that can burn," said Thanh Nguyen with the SoCal Team One Fire Management Team, who suggested having a packed bag ready to go.

Top three largest fires in California

Firefighters in California are battling 15 large fires.

The largest fire in California history is the Mendocino Complex Fire, which consists of the Ranch and River fires in Northern California. That blaze had burned more than 305,152 acres, destroyed 119 homes and 110 other structures, and injured two firefighters as of Thursday night. It is 52% contained.

The second biggest fire is the Carr Fire in Shasta County, also in Northern California. The deadly fire has been burning for more than two weeks and consumed 178,752 acres as of Thursday night. It is 49% contained. It has killed eight people, including three firefighters, and destroyed almost 1,100 homes.

The third largest is the Ferguson Fire, near Yosemite National Park, incinerating more than 95,000 acres. The fire has lasted more than three weeks and killed two people.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Angola
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 15°
Huntington
Mostly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 15°
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Lima
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 18°
Evening Light Snow Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events