A man was arrested on Monday on suspicion of arson in connection with a destructive wildfire in Northern California that has destroyed more than 175 homes and businesses, officials said on Monday.
Damin Pashilk, 40, was arrested on 17 counts of arson related to the so-called Clayton fire, which broke out in the foothill community of Lower Lake, as well as numerous recent fires in the area, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott told a community meeting in Lake County on Monday night.
The fast-moving wildfire had spread to more than six square miles in the Lower Lake area about 90 miles north of San Francisco.
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.
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.
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.
Last September, one of California’s most destructive wildfires ravaged a series of small towns just a half-hour from Lower Lake, whose residents were forced to evacuate. It killed four people, left a fifth missing and destroyed more than 1,300 homes in nearby communities.