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Felipe Montiel fishes at Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire reflects across the water while burning in the Cleveland National Forest.
Felipe Montiel fishes at Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire reflects across the water while burning in the Cleveland National Forest. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Wind-swept wildfires raging. Homes incinerated. Families displaced. Lives lost.

In the long, hot, smoky California summer of 2018, as we camp under ash-hued sunset skies, the scariest thought is that the future has arrived, and more intense weather extremes will continue to wreak havoc in years to come. Not just in summer, but with drought-deluge cycles and higher temperatures even in cooler months.

Last week, an 81-year-old Van Nuys resident told me that sure, summers have always been hot, but lately they seem to have been imported from Palm Springs.

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  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Holy fire
A helicopter fighting the Holy fire drops water on flames at along Ortega Highway.
A helicopter fighting the Holy fire drops water on flames at along Ortega Highway. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It’s been an epic aerial assault that is showing signs of success. By Saturday morning, containment of the Holy fire had jumped from 5% to 29% in less than 24 hours. Flames whipped dangerously close to Lake Elsinore suburban developments, but there has not been a major loss of housing so far.

The hot conditions and unpredictable weather has made it difficult for firefighters to get ahead of the fire. But they have one big advantage: easy access to the water from Lake Elsinore, which they have used for countless drops.

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  • Yosemite fire
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer at Yosemite National Park, walks across Stoneman Meadow in the Yosemite Valley.
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer at Yosemite National Park, walks across Stoneman Meadow in the Yosemite Valley. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite Valley will reopen to visitors at 9 a.m. Tuesday, after being closed for 20 days because of the Ferguson fire. The National Park Service also announced Friday that the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias will reopen at 9 a.m. Monday

Visitors should expect limited hours and services at park facilities as they return to normal operations.

  • Mendocino Complex fire
  • Redding fire
Land Park area near Redding, Calif., shows the fire's path of destruction.
Land Park area near Redding, Calif., shows the fire's path of destruction. (Redding GIS)

Aerial photos collected as part of a multi-agency collaboration creates a view of the Redding, Calif., area and the Carr fire’s path of destruction. Licensed drone pilots from the Menlo Park Fire District, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and other agencies assisted the city of Redding in capturing the aerial photos. Click through to see all photos.

Buenaventura Boulevard destruction.
Buenaventura Boulevard destruction. (Redding GIS)
Arson suspect Forrest Gordon Clark
Arson suspect Forrest Gordon Clark (Orange County Sheriff's Department / AFP)

The man accused of setting the 18,000-acre Holy fire in Orange County that prompted thousands of residents to evacuate their homes this week made his initial court appearance Friday.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, made several outbursts during the hearing in Santa Ana, calling the charges against him a “lie,” and insisting again that he was being threatened, according to City News Service.

When a court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million, Clark said he could easily afford it. His arraignment was postponed until Aug. 17.

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  • Resources
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

One key to getting through any emergency situation is preparation.

With wildfires raging across California, more and more residents are being faced with having to evacuate. The Mendocino Complex fire is now the largest wildfire in state history, a record previously held by last year’s Thomas fire.

The first thing to pack should be your “go bag” of essentials. That, experts say, should include:

  1. Water and nonperishable food
  2. A flashlight
  3. A first aid kit
  4. Batteries and chargers for your devices
  5. Several days’ worth of clothing — including coats, pajamas, underwear and socks
  6. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation purposes
  7. A battery- or crank-operated radio
  8. A whistle to signal for help
  9. Local maps in case GPS isn’t working
  • Resources
  • Cleveland National Forest fire

By Friday morning, the Holy fire had grown to 18,137 acres and was 5% contained.

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  • Yosemite fire
  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Mendocino Complex fire
  • Redding fire
  • Holy fire
Firefighters battling the Mendocino Complex blaze monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga, Calif., on Aug. 7.
Firefighters battling the Mendocino Complex blaze monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga, Calif., on Aug. 7. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Ben Newburn faced a group of weary firefighters gathered a few mornings ago with one message: safety before anything else.

The veteran fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service recounted the numerous firefighters who had lost their lives battling massive blazes in the region. There was Andrew Palmer, who died 10 years ago while clearing trees. And the nine firefighters killed in 2008 when their helicopter crashed in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, an incident seared in history as the “Iron 44 tragedy.”

“This country … chews up firefighters. It has had a notorious past of being very hard on us,” Newburn said. “So as you guys are going out there, working on whatever assignment you guys have, please keep in mind what you’re doing and the risks associated with that.”

  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Holy fire
Firefighters watch for flare-ups as they prevent flames from the Holy fire from crossing the Ortega Highway in Lake Elsinore.
Firefighters watch for flare-ups as they prevent flames from the Holy fire from crossing the Ortega Highway in Lake Elsinore. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

As flames flickered behind Ana Tran’s McVicker Canyon home, she and her friend rushed to their car and sped past firefighters who were heading toward the blaze. Thick black smoke billowed above homes and cars were blanketed in pinkish fire retardant.

The residents, like many others, made a frantic escape Thursday after winds picked up in Lake Elsinore and pushed the raging Holy fire within feet of homes. The blaze had ravaged more than 18,000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest and had spread into Riverside County as of Friday morning.