California fire threatens retirement community

Firefighters are seen battling the so-called Holy Fire in Southern California

Los Angeles (AFP) - One of the fires scorching California Sunday moved in on a retirement community, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of people.

Residents of the Trilogy Glen Ivy community located between the Santa Ana Mountains and a major highway who have trouble driving in the dark were urged to leave immediately to escape the wrath of the Holy Fire, which has already burned through 22,714 acres (9,192 hectares) and is 41 percent contained.

The US Forest Service estimates that around 3,700 homes and structures have been evacuated, or around 11,120 people.

Nearly 1,500 firefighters -- supported by some inmates from a local jail -- are battling that blaze, as it spread to the north and east, prompting a new round of evacuations.

Across California, firefighters reported making significant progress against some of the huge wildfires raging across the most populous state, but were bracing for more of the soaring temperatures, dry air and gusty winds that have made their job so tough.

Some of the worst fires slowed over the weekend. 

The so-called Mendocino Complex north of state capital Sacramento -- including the River and Ranch fires, which together form the largest blaze in state history -- burned 3,100 acres overnight, just one fourth the previous night's toll, according to local media.

The Carr fire in the north, which has destroyed more than 1,000 homes, grew only modestly overnight, as containment lines improved.

Steep terrain

Their task was complicated by steep terrain making it difficult for fire trucks to approach. More than 25 aircraft were being used to drop water and fire-retardant chemicals.

Some 18 blazes are continuing to scorch wide swathes of California. 

The Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex, was 58 percent contained as of Saturday, while the River Fire was 92 percent contained, news media reported. The two blazes have devastated an area of more than 325,000 acres so far.

Authorities have charged a 51-year-old man, Forrest Gordon Clark, with multiple arson-related charges in connection with the Holy Fire.

A court set bail at $1 million for Clark, who has had repeated encounters with local police over the years.

Clark could face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison if convicted. He rejected the charges during an erratic court appearance, calling them a "lie." 

He said he could easily afford bail and asked if he could pay it right away.

©Agence France-Presse