A man who was arrested on suspicion of starting the destructive Holy Fire in the Trabuco Canyon area of Orange County this week was charged after refusing to leave his jail cell for a court appearance Thursday.
Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was charged Thursday on suspicion of aggravated arson with the intent to cause injury to another or damage property, arson of an inhabited property, arson of forest, making criminal threats and resisting arrest, according to a criminal complaint from the O.C. District Attorney's Office. He also faces an additional count of arson that caused multiple structures to burn.
Clark was arrested Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. He is being held on $1 million bail in Santa Ana.
While it is unclear exactly how the blaze was sparked Monday, investigators said they have evidence against Clark.
Clark lived in the Holy Jim area for over a decade, and his cabin was the only one of 14 standing after the fire ripped through the neighborhood, the Orange County Register reported.
Authorities have not released an official figure of how many structures have been destroyed in the fire, but it has scorched 9,614 acres and is only 5 percent contained.
A little over two weeks ago, on July 23, the O.C. Sheriff's Department took Clark in on a custody on a 5150 hold, according to Carrie Braun, a public information officer for the department. A 5150 hold allows law enforcement to detain a person deemed mentally unstable or otherwise posing a threat to themselves or others for up to 72 hours.
Braun was unsure why or where he was taken into custody, or how long he was held for.
Last week, on Aug. 2, deputies responded to another 5150 call involving Clark but were unable to locate him, Braun said.
In an interview with a freelance news photographer after the fire started, Clark said that "gangbangers" are out to kill him and he denies having anything to do with the blaze.
A neighbor told the Register that Clark had been involved in a dispute with another neighbor for years and he ranted about conspiracy theories.
Mike Milligan, a volunteer fire chief, told the newspaper that Clark sent him threatening emails last week, one of which predicted that the Holy Jim community would burn.
Clark allegedly threatened to hurt or kill "Frank R." in a statement that was "so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific" that the victim feared for his safety.
In the video by the freelance photographer, Clark is being handcuffed by authorities as flames burned just feet away, apparently having destroyed a nearby cabin.
O.C. Supervisor Todd Spitzer told KTLA that he hopes Clark is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"Every single arsonist who has been prosecuted in the state of California, for the most part, has several screws loose," Spitzer said. "We have gained convictions in this state, we have gotten life in prison even with individuals who have mental issues, it doesn’t mean that they dont understand what they were doing, it just means that they’re not necessarily stable."
Jeffrey Kirk, who is prosecuting the case for the DA's office, said more charges could come as the investigation into the blaze continues.
“The sky’s the limit,” Kirk said.
Clark faces life in prison if convicted as charged.
Holy Fire arson suspect Forrest Clark is refusing to leave his cell at the jail. Judge says his court hearing will be postponed until tomorrow.
— eric spillman (@ericspillman) August 9, 2018