Crews battle growing wildfire near homes in California

Crews battle growing wildfire near homes in California

More than 20,000 people are forced from their homes in Southern California by a risky arson wildfire that intensified overnight.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday in both Orange and Riverside counties in order to aid firefighting efforts there.

Shannon Hicks, 59, defied an evacuation order and watched in awe as firefighters faced down a storm of flames that descended toward her street in the city of Lake Elsinore. Two other people - a state fire heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the fire and a utility worker trying to restore power near the fire- have died in vehicle accidents.

Wildfires across California and the region could be further stoked by strong gusts, low humidity and hot weather on Friday and Saturday, forecasters warned. Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, allegedly wrote to a fire chief two weeks ago, CNN reported.

He has also been charged with threatening neighbors - one of whom lost his cabin in the fire - and resisting arrest.

Authorities say he intentionally started the fire on Monday after a decade-long dispute with neighbours.

He's charged with setting the "Holy Fire", named for the town, Holy Jim, near where the blaze began.

Fire spokeswoman Kate Kramer says Thursday that the majority of the 15-square-mile (39-square-kilometer) blaze is burning in wildland areas.

He was scheduled to appear in court that day, but refused to leave his cell. Extremely dry brush in the area, combined with steep hillsides, created ideal conditions for the blazes to spread.

Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan, who also has a cabin in the area, says every resident in the canyon is afraid of him.

The firefighter told the Post that he had been reporting "problems" with Clark to the sheriff's office and U.S. Forest Service for more than three years, including the most recent text message he reportedly received from Clark.

"Firefighters continue to battle the blaze around the clock", the national forest tweet said.

"May I pay for that immediately?" asked Clark, who could face life in prison if convicted. "I was asleep. I had two earplugs in".

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened.

The fires are so large they can be seen from space.

Onlookers are silhouetted against the reflection of a wildfire burning in the Cleveland National Forest in Lake Elsinore, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.

The Holy Fire burns in the Cleveland National Forest.

Residents in states like Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi, Virginia and even NY and MA can see the smoke manifest itself through grey skies and vibrant sunsets, the National Weather Service says.

For two weeks a tiresome haze and the faint smell of smoke from more than a dozen distant blazes have blanketed many California cities, forcing summer campers to stay inside, obscuring normally bright skylines and leaving cars covered with ash.