LOWER LAKE (KPIX 5) – A 40-year-old Clearlake man was arrested on suspicion of starting the Clayton Fire and numerous other fires in Lake County over the past year.
Damin Anthony Pashilk, 40, was booked into the Lake County Jail for 17 counts of arson on Monday.
Cal Fire officials said the arson charges will also carry enhancements due to the destruction of homes and businesses.
“The residents of Lake County have experienced senseless loss and endured significant hardship over the past year,” Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director said. “Mr. Pashilk committed a horrific crime and we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. My thoughts continue to be with the people of Lake County during this difficult time.”
Pashilk is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday.
Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Lake County due to the effects of the Clayton Fire early Monday evening.
The declaration will free up state resources and temporarily sets aside regulations for fighting the fire and the recovery of residents in the area impacted.
Brown also declared a state of emergency in San Luis Obispo County because of the damage from the Chimney Fire Friday.
Crews from across the Bay Area and Northern California continued to battle the fast-moving Clayton Fire in already fire-ravaged Lake County Monday afternoon.
According to Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant, 175 structures have been destroyed since the fire broke out Saturday afternoon.
Cal Fire said the fire has scorched 4,000 acres (6.25 square miles) and is five percent contained, a figure that held throughout the day on Monday.
More than 4,000 people remain evacuated as of Monday. Firefighters said the Clayton Fire is burning on the eastern portion of the community of Lower Lake, east of Highway 29. The blaze is burning towards Clearlake.
Firefighters made a stand during Sunday night’s firestorm through Lower Lake’s historic downtown outside of Holley’s Repair.
The repair shop survived. Right across the street, a whole stretch of downtown was burned to rubble.
“It got part of the building, that’s about it. The inside looks good for right now,” said grateful business owner Amanda Holley.
Holley says she doesn’t recognize what’s left of Second Street, now an apocalyptic, charred moonscape.
“That building right there was a historic building and now it’s gone,” explained Holley. “I feel bad. There was a shop right behind that building and I feel bad for him. His house was back there. His shop was back there and now he has nothing. He’s an older gentleman and he can’t even start over.”
Her business does have some losses. A customer’s truck — a car that was being fixed up as a surprise for her mother — and a tractor.
“That tractor right there actually belongs to the high school and we were doing work on it, too,” said Holley. “So far we feel pretty lucky. My brother was out here all night last night putting out any spot fires in the backyard and stuff.”
The Konocti Unified School District has cancelled school for the week August 15-19.
Couple Marla Sherman and John Kounious were among the 4,000 people forced to evacuate their homes because of the fire.
“We could see the flames and the smoke as we were leaving,” said Sherman.
“You don’t want to leave your house until you absolutely have to,” said Kounious.
They and their pets are staying at an evacuation center at Twin Pines Casino.
“You got your tortoise in a kennel and you got a dog in your lap and you gotta go,” said Kounious. “It’s like what do you grab, you know?”
Among the buildings lost in the downtown devastation of Lower Lake included an office for Habitat for Humanity, a historic firehouse and dozens of homes.
According to PG&E, as of 9 p.m. Monday, 700 customers were without power in the Lower Lake and Clearlake area. PG&E is urging residents in the area “to stay away from downed power lines and treat them as highly dangerous.”
The combination of wind and dry heat on Sunday created a firestorm. Firefighters believe it could happen again Monday.
“That’s going to be our greatest fear this afternoon as we try to build and re-enforce our containment lines,” said Cal Fire Lt. Doug Pittman.
KPIX 5 reporter Anne Makovec took these photos of downtown Lower Lake, where numerous buildings were destroyed.
• PHOTOS: Clayton Fire Burns Lake County
“The weather…is a nemesis for us. So we don’t know what that’s gonna bring to the table today,” Lt. Doug Pittman of Cal Fire told KPIX 5 Monday morning. “So our focus right now is reinforcing our containment lines, working on making sure that this community and those around here that have been impacted by the fire, that all the little issues – power, gas safety issues, have been neutralized.”
Last year, three major wildfires tore through Lake County, including the Valley Fire, which was the third most destructive wildfire in California history. The Valley Fire, which was sparked by faulty electrical wiring, killed four people, seriously injured four firefighters and scorched 76,067 acres (118 square miles).
In the community of Middletown, which was decimated by the Valley Fire, residents remain in the process of rebuilding. Makovec took this video of the rebuilding effort.
Evacuation centers have been set up at the Twin Pine Casino in Middletown, Kelseyville High School, the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lakeport and Highlands Senior Center in Clearlake.