Police on Wednesday arrested a man suspected of sparking one the massive wildfires raging across California as firefighters fight to contain the largest fire in state history.
Officers arrested 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark on multiple charges, including two counts of felony arson, in connection with the Holy Fire, which has charred more than 6,200 acres of land in Riverside and Orange counties, authorities said. He is scheduled for court on Thursday. It’s unclear whether he’s retained an attorney.
The man-made blaze was just 5 percent contained on Thursday as firefighters struggled in battling least 18 large wildfires burning throughout California.
The largest, the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, has burned at least 302,086 acres since July 27, making it the largest ever seen in the state. It was 47 percent contained as of Wednesday evening and authorities said it probably wouldn’t be contained before September.
The second-largest fire, the deadly Carr Fire in Shasta County, has burned more than 176,000 acres over the last few weeks, fire officials said. It has killed seven people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
More than 14,000 firefighters are working to curb the blazes amid sweltering temperatures and super-dry conditions.
California’s firefighting expenses have more than tripled from $242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to $773 million in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Cal Fire.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued a directive ordering federal agencies to prioritize protection of life and property over endangered species in effort to free up water resources, although officials said a lack of water wasn’t a problem.
“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”
Some state officials criticized the president’s directive.
“We have plenty of water to fight these fires,” Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean said in a statement. “The Carr fire has Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Lake and Trinity Lake just to name a few water sources. The Mendocino Complex is next to Clearlake Lake. The current weather is causing more severe and destructive fires.”