Crews make progress battling Southern California wildfire

A firefighter lights a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire part of the Mendocino Complex Fire on Tuesday Aug. 7 2018 near Ladoga Calif

The Associated Press

The deadly fire has burned for almost three weeks and killed eight people.

The Holy Fire - named for Holy Jim Canyon where it began Monday - grew to almost 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) by Saturday morning.

Standing in the ashes of his house on Friday, Dan Pritchett told KNBC-TV that he and his brother stayed until a wall of flames roared near. "(There were) 100-foot flames right on the crest of the hill, right in front of me".

On Saturday, officials allowed some residents to return to their homes in Lake Elsinore, but others still remained under evacuation orders.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened and saying the arson charge against him was a lie.

The man charged with deliberately starting the fire appeared in court Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

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

The state is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

The Mendocino Complex - two blazes that together rank as the largest wildfire in California history - surged by more than 12,000 acres overnight to 325,226 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was 60 percent contained.

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

Six major new fires have broken out in the United States, causing the number of huge fires already burning across the country to rise to more than 100 with more fires expected at the weekend due to lightning strikes hitting drylands, U.S. authorities said.

Firefighters were battling another day of extremely hot temperatures and strong winds on Saturday, the National Interagency Coordination Center said. The fire had reached 508 square miles (1,315 sq. kilometers) and was 67 percent contained by Saturday.

However, evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 70 miles northeast of Redding. Andrew Brake, a 40-year-old Cal Fire heavy equipment mechanic from Chico, was killed Thursday in a single-car crash on Highway 99 on his way to the blaze, officials said.

High temperatures and dry grass and brush have made it hard for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze.

After almost three weeks, park officials have announced that Yosemite Valley would reopen on Tuesday.

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