LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - The Holy Fire exploded to more than 10,200 acres on Thursday and moved dangerously close to homes in Riverside County's Lake Elsinore-Corona area.
The brush fire, located in the Cleveland National Forest, remained at 5 percent containment on its fourth day.
Late Thursday evening, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire raged on and expanded in size. By 8 p.m., the fire went from 9,600 acres to 10,236 acres.
A smoke-filled sky blanketed communities in the Lake Elsinore area in the early morning hours. More than 1,000 firefighters remained on the front lines as the Holy Fire continued to burn toward Horsethief Canyon, Cow Canyon and McVicker Drainage, north of Lake Elsinore. Ten helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft assisted firefighters.
There's a possibility of monsoonal flow, which may contribute to an increase in relative humidity and cool temperatures slightly, according to fire officials. Although the weather is slightly more favorable than in the past three days, flames got closer to homes away from Orange County and more to the northeast.
A wall of Phos-Chek was painted for miles to protect houses near Crystal Ridge Court.
"It's got a nice, little pink tone to it. It actually looks a little better than it did when they originally dropped it. It was super red, but it's OK, I'd rather have to deal with this than have to rebuild an entire new house," said Lake Elsinore resident P.J. Rodriguez.
Holy Fire chars 10,200 acres near Lake Elsinore-Corona area
In the McVicker Canyon area, firefighters worked quickly and hard to save dozens of homes as flames raced up the brush right against the backyard fences.
Firefighters and residents who remained in their homes at the last minute either fled or continued to hose down their homes.
Many residents said it's been rough watching the flames get so close to their home and even hearing the fire roaring through the vegetation.
Rudy, a Riverside firefighter who had just come off the frontlines, said he watched as the flames moved into his own backyard in the Temescal Valley.
"We do our due diligence to protect those homes, but being here there's nothing I can really do. I don't have my apparatus or my crew. But I do trust the local agencies, Cal Fire, OCFA doing their jobs, so I feel safe," he said.
He added that some manmade preventions such as a quarry and construction helps to keep the fire from quickly moving in.
Fire officials hold community meeting for Holy Fire evacuees
Outbuildings, trailers and vehicles reportedly were damaged by flames in the Cow Canyon Area, which is west of Echo Canyon Court in Lake Elsinore.
Some homes appeared to sustain damage as well at the end of Towee Lane, near a Korean Church retreat.
Officials had lowered the acreage of the fire to 3,399 acres on Tuesday but raised it to 6,200 acres Wednesday afternoon. The size then exploded to 9,614 acres, Cleveland National Forest officials announced Thursday.
No major injuries have been reported. Twelve structures were destroyed on the Orange County side. It was unclear how many structures were damaged in Riverside County.
The official cause of the fire remains unknown but on Wednesday, authorities arrested 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark on suspicion of felony arson among other charges in connection to the blaze. He was charged Thursday morning and failed to appear in court.
The flames caused a smoke advisory to be issued for Orange and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Those who have not been forced to evacuate are being urged to limit outdoor activity.
- McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief Canyon, El Cariso, Rancho Capistrano, Blue Jay, Indian Canyon, Glen Eden, Sycamore Creek and Mayhew Canyon.
- All homes on the mountainside of Lake Street and southwest of Grand Avenue to Ortega Highway.
A care and reception center is available at Temescal Canyon High School, 28755 El Toro Rd Lake Elsinore CA 92532 for residents. There is also an evacuation center at the San Juan Hills High School, located at 29211 Stallion Ridge, San Juan Capistrano.
Voluntary evacuation warnings:
- Highway 74 (Ortega Highway) west from Lookout Restaurant to Nichols Institute and all connecting roads in the communities of Rancho Capistrano, El Cariso Village and Blue Jay. Residents are advised to exit west to Orange County to avoid fire equipment coming up on the Elsinore side.
-Highway 74 eastbound is also closed.
-All Menifee Union District and Perris High School Union schools announced they would shut down Thursday, citing the poor air quality.
-Other schools that are closed are from the Lake Elsinore Unified School District School include: Luiseno School, Rice Canyon Elementary, Terra Cota Middle School and Withrow Elementary. District officials said they will be closed until further notice.
Holy Fire evacuations and closures
The fire has been burning since Monday, when it was first reported around 1:30 p.m. near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads - across the main divide between Orange and Riverside counties.