Arson suspect in 18,000-acre Holy fire makes brief court appearance; arraignment is postponed
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.
Clark, who has been charged with multiple counts of arson in connection with the Holy fire, was originally scheduled to appear in court Thursday but refused to leave his jail cell, according to Carrie Braun, public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Clark gave a rambling interview to a television reporter earlier this week, claiming to know nothing about how the fire started.
His Facebook page is littered with links to popular conspiracy theories involving the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a mass shooting that left dozens dead in Las Vegas last year and “QAnon,” whose followers believe a secretive government source nicknamed “Q” has been leaking information that proves President Trump’s election was part of a broader effort to take down an international criminal cabal involving Hillary Clinton and others.
The movement, a cousin of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that also made bizarre claims about prominent figures engaging in pedophilia, gained media attention in recent weeks after Trump supporters were seen holding “Q” signs at some of the president’s recent rallies.
In postings published in mid-July, Clark also complained about a neighbor in Trabuco Canyon who he accused of using drugs and inviting gang members into the neighborhood. Clark also accused the man of stealing something from his cabin, according to the post.
After reviewing Clark’s social media posts, Brian Levin, director of the Cal State San Bernardino Center on Hate and Extremism, said Clark appeared to be an “anti-government, anti-establishment conspiracy theorist.”
He expressed specific concerns about Clark’s adherence to conspiracies involving land use. The Cleveland National Forest is federal land, and cabins located in the area where Clark lived and the fire started are not supposed to be used as full-time residences.
The Holy fire started Monday near Trabuco Canyon and has grown over the last week to 18,137 acres.
More than 20,000 people have been placed under mandatory evacuations with several more under an evacuation warning. At least 12 structures have been destroyed. The fire is at 5% containment.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this story.
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