SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — After refusing to leave his jail cell, an Orange County man investigators say started the massive Holy Fire burning across the Southland made a bizarre appearance in court Friday.
Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, made several outbursts in court, calling the charges against him a “lie” and claiming that he and family members were being threatened.
When his bail was ordered to remain at $1 million, Clark said he could “easily” pay that amount right away.
“I can handle a million right now easily,” said Clark, clothed in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit.
He initially refused to face the judge, and attorneys told the judge Clark was afraid to show his face for fear of “retaliation”.
His arraignment was postponed until Aug. 17.
Clark was arrested Tuesday night in connection with the fire, which is burning into its fourth day and has burned more than 18,000 acres. Of the 14 cabins in Holy Jim Canyon where Clark lives, his was the only one to remain standing.
Clark has been charged with one felony count each of aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats and two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.
Orange County Fire officials say they believe the Holy Fire began near Cabin 14, which is owned by Clark.
Clark apparently has a history of erratic behavior. Last month, he was placed on a psychiatric hold. Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan, who also has a cabin in the area, says every resident in the canyon is afraid of him.
Milligan, who has known Clark for two decades, was the one to receive the text from Clark that said “it’s all going to burn.” Deputies also tried to contact Clark last week, but could not find him.
Clark spoke to a freelance photographer with news video company OnScene outside his cabin, insisting he had nothing to do with the fire.
“They took me away last time for no [expletive] reason, I told them that I’d been vandalized,” Clark said as the fire burned around him.
If convicted as charged, Clark faces life in prison.