A red haze filled with ash from the Holy Fire hung across Orange County this morning. 20,000 residents from Orange and Riverside Counties are under mandatory evacuation as the 9,600 acre fire burns toward communities near Lake Elsinore.
Meanwhile, somewhere deep inside Orange County Men’s Jail in Santa Ana, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark–the man charged with starting the fire–refused to leave his cell to appear for his arraignment at Orange County Central Court.
Clark (or as the Weekly‘s Matt Coker calls him ‘White Trash Jesus’) was due to appear for his arraignment early this morning, but because of his refusal to appear, his arraignment is set for Friday morning. Law enforcement has not released Clark’s reasons for refusing to leave his cell, as of today.
Clark reportedly threatened the Holy Jim Fire Department and residents, stating, “This place will burn.”
Clark is being held on $1 million bail pending his arraignment, and is charged with one felony count each of aggravated arson of five or more inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest, criminal threats, two felony counts of resisting and deterring an executive officer, and a sentencing enhancement for arson burning multiple structures. The maximum sentence is life in state prison. Clark was arrested by O.C. Sheriffs and U.S. Forest authorities in his camouflage chones outside of his cabin yesterday.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t White Trash Jesus’s first run in with the law. A few years back, my younger brother Andrew and some friends were barbecuing at a friend’s cabin in Holy Jim when Clark charged at the group of 16-year-olds, accusing them of trying to set the canyon on fire. When the boys denied the accusations, Clark became enraged and punched Elvis Castillo–the 16-year-old boy whose parents owned the cabin. O.C. Sheriffs deputies responded to the incident, but no arrest was made, according to O.C. Superior Court.
Incidents such as these weren’t isolated. According to the court records, Clark has had 11 run-ins with the Sheriff’s Dept. since 1996. Clark’s charges range from domestic abuse, to mental health cases, to elder abuse, to driving with an invalid license, to falsifying his car registration. In 2012, Clark was arrested for domestic violence and elder abuse. Soon after, his mother was granted a restraining order against her violent son.
Heidi Cardarsson has worked at the Trabuco Canyon General Store outside of Holy Jim Canyon on-and-off for 20 years. Clark was a regular at the General Store, and Cardasson says she remembers him well. Many of the homes in Holy Jim run off propane generators, and many homeowners frequent the General Store.
“He would always come in here to fill up his propane tanks, and you’d just get a creepy feeling about him,” Heidi said. “You don’t see him much because he’s kind of hiding out there in the wilderness, but when he comes in he doesn’t say much.”
Heidi states that Clark has been harassing residents for years, and has threatened to burn the home of the Schumates–the couple who narrowly escaped the fire via airlift earlier this week.
As of now, the fire is only 5 percent contained, according to Kate Kramer, Public Information Officer for the Holy Fire. 12 structures have been burned and two fire officers have suffered heat related injuries as we enter day three of the Holy fire.
Kramer also informed us that new mandatory evacuations along the north west side of Lake Elsinore, north of the Ortega Highway, are in effect.