Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Setting Northern California Wildfires

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James McCauley looks over the burned-out remains of his residence in the town of Lower Lake, Calif.

A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of setting the Clayton fire in Northern California, which officials say has burned more than 4,000 acres and destroyed more than 175 homes and businesses in the past few days.

Damin Anthony Pashilk of Clearlake, Calif., is being held on suspicion of a total of 17 counts of arson in Lake County, Calif., over the past year. Lake County is a largely rural area of wineries and vacation homes about 120 miles north of San Francisco.

Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said in a statement announcing the arrest:

"The residents of Lake County have experienced senseless loss and endured significant hardship over the past year. Mr. Pashilk committed a horrific crime and we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."

Cal Fire said the arson charges against Pashilk "will also carry enhancements due to the destruction of homes and businesses."

The Clayton fire was named for the creek near where it began. On Saturday night, the fire reached the community of Lower Lake, forcing hundreds of residents to leave. The nearby community of Clearlake, where Pashilk lives, also was evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

Cal Fire says more than 1,600 firefighters were fighting the blaze, which as of Monday night was 5 percent contained and threatened some 1,500 structures.

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