A man was arrested and charged with arson on Monday for starting a massive wildfire in northern California that has destroyed 175 homes and businesses, and forced thousands to flee to safety.
Damin Anthony Pashilk, 40, faces 17 counts of arson, Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said. He was speaking during a community meeting at a casino serving as an evacuation centre for some of the 4 000 people driven from their homes by the so-called Clayton Fire.
His announcement was greeted with cheers and applause.
State firefighting agency Cal Fire said Pashilk was suspected of setting “numerous fires” in Lake County over the past year.
“The residents of Lake County have experienced senseless loss and endured significant hardship over the past year,” Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlott said.
“Mr Pashilk committed a horrific crime and we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
The fire was burning through 1 620ha, with 1 664 personnel fighting the blaze, Cal Fire said. Only 5% of the blaze, which broke out on Saturday more than 100km north of San Francisco, has been contained.