'Holy Fire' Arson Suspect Arrested, State of Emergency Declared

August 10, 2018 AT 9:29 AM

By Faith Karimi and Eliott C. McLaughlin

Josh Castro waited until the last minute to escape the massive inferno near his house in Southern California.

Despite mandatory evacuation orders, Castro had stayed behind to protect his Lake Elsinore home from looters, he said. His wife, children and dog had evacuated as the bright orange flames from the Holy Fire swept through the canyon, sending ash and billowing black smoke in his neighborhood.

Then the flames moved up the hill, closer to his backyard, and Castro decided it was time to leave. A sheriff's deputy banged on his door and told him it will only get worse, and Castro left his home of eight years and joined the line of cars snaking out of Lake Elsinore.

"I don't know anything about the neighborhood," Castro said Thursday. "Hopefully I have a house in the morning."

As night fell Thursday, the Holy Fire had destroyed about a dozen structures since it erupted Monday at the Cleveland National Forest.

In a week, it has scorched 10,236 acres and was 5% contained. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties, where more than 21,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders.

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