Man suspected of setting California wildfire allegedly told firefighters ‘this place is going to burn’
A 51-year-old man was arrested in California in connection with a wildfire that has burned 6,200 acres, and is accused of saying, “This place will burn,” in a text message.
The so-called “Holy Fire” started on Monday in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has already burned 12 structures and is only five per cent contained, authorities say.
More than 600 firefighters have been deployed to fight it, the Washington Post reports.
“We know this district burns, but it should never burn because of an intentional act,” Orange County supervisor Todd Spitzer said on Wednesday. “This shouldn’t be called the Holy Jim Fire. This should be called the Holy Hell Fire.”
Forrest Gordon Clark was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, and one count each of felony threat to terrorize and misdemeanour resisting arrest.
WATCH: Firefighters battle to curb wildfire before winds return
He is being held on a $1-million bail and is set to appear in court on Thursday.
Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan told the Post that Clark had sent him several text messages over the past week threatening to start a fire.
“In a text, he said this place ‘is going to burn just like we planned,’” Milligan told the Post.
WATCH: Suspect in starting California wildfire seen speaking with firefighters prior to arrest
He also said he reported the messages to the U.S. Forest Service
“Why the hell didn’t they respond? I reported this over and over again.”
According to WGN9, Clark told a cameraman he was asleep when the fire started. But authorities say physical evidence and witness statements have connected him to the fire.
WATCH: California man arrested in connection to so-called Holy Fire, charged with arson
The charges can carry a life sentence.
“Arson is a terrible crime that destroys dreams,” said Susan Schroeder of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The Holy Fire is only one of 15 large fires burning in California in August. It’s burning along with the largest fire in California state history, the Mendocino Complex Fire which is over 302,086 acres. Eight people have died as a result of the fires.
WATCH: Smoke from Holy wildfire choking Los Angeles area
*with a file from the Associated Press
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