Firefighters battle Holy Fire as it approaches structures

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Castro left his home of eight years and joined the line of cars snaking out of Lake Elsinore.

When the judge described his right to a preliminary hearing, Clark said, "I do not understand, though I will say, "yay" at this time". The blaze has razed a dozen properties so far.

As of Thursday morning, crews had contained an impressive 51 percent of the fire. The state's firefighting agency employs 5,300 full-time firefighters and hires an additional 1,700 each fire season.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said the area has few natural barriers to slow flames and terrain that firefighters can't get to.

Aircraft turned hillsides red with retardant as homeowners wet their houses with garden hoses in a battle to contain an arson wildfire, which prompted evacuation orders for more than 20,000 people south of Los Angeles. "But if it's pulled down by the jet stream, it can cause unhealthy air quality", CNN reported.

And authorities said things will only get worse, with the area forecast to have temperatures in the 90s and gusty winds of up to 25 miles per hour.

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated in and around Lake Elsinore, where furious flames and billowing smoke rose into the sky at the edge of the city of 60,000 as the blaze, dubbed the Holy Fire, burned nearby in the Santa Ana Mountains.

Lake Elsinore mayor Natasha Johnson said the blaze has been "devastating". "Every single person in this canyon is afraid of him, No. 1, avoids him, No. 2, and knew he was going to do something insane".

Clark, he said, is an erratic, risky person whom Milligan flagged to federal and state officials on a regular basis. Milligan called back and though the reception was poor in the canyon, he recognized Clark's voice, he said.

Holy Jim volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Milligan, 71, said that Clark "is just a scourge on this canyon", according to NPR. He alerted the US Forest Service that, "You have to do something or he's gonna kill someone or burn this place down".

Clark's arraignment was delayed Thursday and could take place Friday, according to Rebecca Moss, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

A resident of the canyon, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, was charged Thursday with arson and other crimes that could send him to prison for life.

Brown issued the declaration on Thursday for Orange and Riverside counties because of the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest, which is threatening thousands of homes. Though they have made progress since the fires were first ignited in July, air pollution from the smoke and burning embers is still a serious concern for California residents.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the suspect "needs to suffer the fullest punishment of the law".

Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office, said her office would "bring him to justice for these bad crimes".

Two firefighters have been treated for heat-related injuries in the Holy Fire.

Some evacuations have been ordered, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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