California wildfire said set by arsonist threatens community

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At least 17 major wildfires were burning across California on Thursday, with the Holy Fire dwarfed by other blazes farther north.

Ziggy Torok and Starla Affatati watch helplessly Thursday as the flames of the Holy Fire close in on Torok's home in the Rice Canyon neighborhood of Lake Elsinore, Calif. It is 49% contained, and has killed eight people, including three firefighters.

It's one of almost 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

A Southern California wildfire that has been raging for several days south of Los Angeles is now 29 percent contained.

The victim, described as a heavy equipment mechanic, died in a crash on Highway 99, Cal Fire said in a statement.

Forrest Gordon Clark, who local authorities have arrested and charged with two counts of felony arson and felony threatening to terrorize, spread a series of alt-right conspiracies on his personal Facebook page.

Rob Gore, a firefighter from the Australian capital of Canberra, said it makes for good relationships that Australians often fight fires in North America and that Canadians and Americans regularly fight fires in his country.

He was charged with arson, making criminal threats and resisting arrest.

High temperatures were expected to worsen conditions and "increase the likelihood of extreme fire behavior as well as heat illness issues for the firefighters and the public", it said.

Forrest Clark, 51, was supposed to be in court on Thursday, but he refused to go. "We continue to actively engage, but can not get ahead of the fire", it said.

A helicopter drops water to protect a home at the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore, California, southeast of Los Angeles, on August 10, 2018.

The Holy Fire, which started started in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has been burning since Monday, with more than 600 firefighters assigned to fight it.

The 51-year-old Clark could face 10 years to life in prison.

All 12 nearby properties were burned by the fire, with only Mr Clark's home left standing.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that any large gathering is safe and being conducted legally", Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters.

However, evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 70 miles northeast of Redding.

"I'm pissed, I'm outraged, I'm disgusted", said Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson.

For now, in Orange and Riverside counties, the focus remains on the Holy Fire.

The third largest is the Ferguson Fire, near Yosemite National Park, incinerating more than 95,000 acres.

The arrest was made as more than a dozen blazes across the state continue to endanger the lives of thousands, including hundreds of firefighters and first responders working around the clock.