Holy Fire burns closer to subdivisions in Riverside, County California

The fire has grown to within two tenths of a mile of homes north of Lake Elsinore

s2t airtanker holy fire

Above: An S-2T air tanker comes past the smoke to drop retardant near the communication towers on Santiago Peak August 8, 2018 as the Holy Fire approaches. HPWREN image. (See other photos of air tankers dropping at Santiago Peak)

(UPDATED at 7:12 p.m. PDT August 9 2018)

News footage shot Thursday afternoon at the Holy Fire showed flames moving into a housing development north of Lake Elsinore in Southern California. Firefighters were scrambling to extinguish the numerous spot fires at the Rice Canyon Elementary School and close to homes near Lincoln Street and West Wind Drive. ABC7 video showed very intense fire, sometimes with 10 t0 20-foot flame lengths, burning adjacent to homes as air tankers dropped retardant. The video showed one actively burning spot fire in the neighborhood that had no firefighters working on it.

The reporter said many homes had been saved and none had been destroyed.

The incident management team, which releases very infrequent updates, has not changed the estimated size of the fire since earlier Thursday morning when they said it had burned 9,658 acres. The fire is probably significantly larger after the additional growth Thursday afternoon.

This video shot Thursday evening of the fire approaching hundreds of homes is impressive.

Holy Fire
Photo from the east facing HPWREN camera on Santiago Peak at 6:19 p.m. PDT August 9, 2018.

(Originally published at 8:15 a.m. PDT August 9, 2018)

Information from an overnight mapping flight showed that at 9:45 p.m. PDT August 8 the Holy Fire had worked its way down the steep Santa Ana Mountain slopes to within two tenths of a mile of McVickers Canyon Park Road in a densely packed subdivision north of Lake Elsinore, California. It was about a mile from the community of El Cariso and two miles from Interstate 15. The incident management team reports that 12 structures have been destroyed; that number could include outbuildings as well as residences.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Holy Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

On Wednesday the incident management team said the fire had burned 6,200 acres. Thursday morning it had increased to 9,614 acres.

map holy fire
A 3-D map of the Holy Fire, looking west, based on mapping data collected at 9:45 p.m. PDT August 8, 2018. The white line was the perimeter about 20 hours before. Click to enlarge.

On the extremely rugged terrain in Horse Thief Canyon there is little firefighters can do other than wait for the blaze to come within striking distance of the hundreds of residences at the base of the slopes so they can beat back the flames as best they can. Numerous helicopters and air tankers, including three Very Large Air Tankers, two DC-10’s and one 747, have been dropping water and retardant at the base of the mountain near the structures and around the hoard of communication towers up above at Santiago Peak. Firefighters are patrolling in the subdivisions and making plans for how they can keep the residences from burning, and are talking with the diehards that are still in their homes in spite of the evacuation orders.

The areas under mandatory evacuation orders include McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief Canyon, El Cariso, Rancho Capistrano, Blue Jay, Indian Canyon, Glen Eden, Sycamore Creek and Mayhew Canyon. The Ortega Highway 74 eastbound is closed.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, has been arrested and is expected to be charged with arson for starting the fire.

Forrest Gordon Clark
Forrest Gordon Clark. Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.