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Trial begins for man charged with igniting 2018 California wildfires

A long-running dispute between two neighbors between rustic huts in Holly Jim Canyon led to what became a massive torch that burned more than 23,000 acres in Orange and Riverside counties. led to the deliberate ignition, prosecutors told jurors on Tuesday.

Forrest Clark’s alleged threats to neighbors and his potentially self-blaming comments Clark made to investigators who were investigating the source of the bushfires lie at the heart of it. arson trial It started Tuesday morning at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Deputy District Attorney Dominic Bello told jurors that Clark threatened a neighbor hours before setting fire “in or around” the man’s cabin. Officials quickly retorted that they had focused solely on Clark and conducted insufficient investigations that failed to prove the fire was set on purpose.

Jurors are expected to hear extensive testimony about the fire investigation and Clark’s often combative relationship with fellow canyon dwellers, but ultimately Clark’s own words are the effective confession. or the disturbed yelling of a man in the midst of mental anguish. health crisis.

On August 6, 2018, the Sacred Fire was lit in hot, dry winds. Inside Holly Jim Canyon, a rural Orange County community of dozens of cabins in the Cleveland National Forest. It took him more than a month for dozens of firefighters to completely suppress the blaze. The blaze blackened an estimated 23,136 acres, burned more than a dozen cabins, and forced thousands of residents to evacuate as the blaze spread through Riverside County.

Clark lived in Holly Jim Canyon for years, just days before a fire broke him out of mental health hold. He later told investigators that he stopped taking the prescribed medicine because he believed it was poison. , the other man added, “you’ll die with your (expletive) gone and stuck in your mouth.”

“He thought he was going to die,” Bello said of his neighbor. “He thought the defendant was trying to kill him.”

At approximately 12:46 p.m., the 911 caller reported seeing smoke billowing from near Clark’s neighbor’s cabin, followed by flames in front of the building shortly thereafter.

A fire investigator who had repeated conversations with Clark previously testified that he believed the fire was started intentionally, but whether the exact location of the fire, the heat source that ignited it, or whether accelerants were used. I admit that I don’t know.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2023/04/19/trial-begins-for-man-accused-of-igniting-massive-holy-fire/ Trial begins for man charged with igniting 2018 California wildfires

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