By: Ruben Vines and Alene Tchekmedyian of LA Times
Firefighters on Friday continued to battle an 18,000-acre wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest after it spread into Riverside County overnight and forced thousands to evacuate.
The Holy fire has destroyed at least 12 structures, but the U.S. Forest Service said that no additional homes had been lost as the fire spread. The fire remains only 5% contained.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Orange and Riverside counties. A suspected arsonist has been arrested in connection with the fire, which began Monday afternoon.
About 1,000 firefighters are on the scene, and more crews and aircraft continue to pour into the area. Officials are expecting another hot day Friday, with temperatures in the 90s.
“These conditions will increase the likelihood of extreme fire behavior as well as heat illness issues for the firefighters and the public,” fire officials said in a statement Friday.
As flames flickered behind Ana Tran’s McVicker Canyon home, she and her friend rushed to their car and sped past firefighters who were heading toward the blaze. Thick black smoke billowed above homes and cars were blanketed in pinkish fire retardant.
The residents, like many others, made a frantic escape Thursday after winds picked up in Lake Elsinore and pushed the raging Holy fire within feet of homes. More than 20,000 residents were urged to leave their homes.