VIDEO: Man arrested for starting massive Clayton Fire in Lake Co. California facing 17 counts of arson
Vince Cestone, KRON, AP writers Kristin J. Bender and Justin Pritchard contributed to this report. – LAKE COUNTY, Ca (KRON) — Cal Fire said a suspect is facing 17 charges of arson for starting the Clayton Fire that has destroyed nearly 200 structures and charred 4,000 acres.
The man arrested for allegedly starting the blaze that destroyed dozens of homes in Lake County is 40-year-old Damin Pashilk of Clearlake.
Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said the suspect is in jail. He is suspected in numerous fires in Lake County over the past year.
Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott says the blaze has caused over $10 million in damages and left dozens of families homeless.
"The residents of Lake County have experienced senseless loss and endured significant hardship over the past year," Pimlott said. "Mr. Pashilk committed a horrific crime and we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. My thoughts continue to be with the people of Lake County during this difficult time."
Officials made the announcement at a news conference but didn't take questions or give any other details on Pashilk.
The wind-whipped had spread to more than six square miles in the Lower Lake area about 90 miles north of San Francisco.
It was just 5 percent contained, though late in the day fire officials said no other structures were under direct threat.
Weather conditions bedeviled firefighters Monday and the forecast called for temperatures to reach the upper 90s in coming days, with no rain in sight. A heat wave and gusty winds also put Southern California on high fire alert.
Underlying it all is a five-year drought that has sapped vegetation of moisture.
For the first time in several generations, wildfire had stalked Lower Lake last year during a devastating period from the end of July through September. Three major blazes blackened towns and mountainous wildland within a few miles to the east and south of town.
The new reality roared into Lower Lake on Sunday, when wind-driven flames fed by pines in the mountains and oaks that cluster on the rolling hills close to town wiped out whole blocks, authorities said.
Thousands of people fled the area — some after ensuring their goats and chickens were safe.
Lower Lake is home to about 1,300 mostly working class people and retirees who are drawn by its rustic charm and housing prices that are lower than the San Francisco Bay Area.
Firefighters couldn't protect all of historic Main Street and flames burned a winery, an antiques store, old firehouse and the Habitat for Humanity office.
The organization was raising money to help rebuild homes in nearby communities torched last year. Between them, the four blazes have destroyed more than 1,400 of the 36,000 housing units in all Lake County.
The fire in Lower Lake reduced businesses to little more than charred foundations that were still smoldering on Monday. All that remained of many homes was burnt patio furniture and appliances, and burned out cars in the driveways.
No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire that broke out Saturday was unknown.
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