Arson suspect linked to 4,000 acre Clayton Fire to make first court appearance

LOWER LAKE, Calif. (KGO) -- Firefighters in Lake County are making progress in the fight against the Clayton Fire. They kept the flames from spreading to more homes.

PHOTOS: Crews battle massive Clayton Fire in Lake County

Cal Fire lifted evacuations in the Avenues in Clearlake late Tuesday afternoons. The 4,000 acres wildfire is now 20 percent contained. At least 175 structures have been destroyed.

The man accused of setting the fire, Damin Anthonuy Pashilk will make his first court appearance Wednesday. He's been booked on multiple counts of arson in connection with the Clayton Fire and other fires in the area.

That news is hard for people to swallow. They're happy the suspect has been arrested, but that won't bring back all those lost homes.

RELATED: I-TEAM: Clayton Fire suspect had training as a firefighter

"You can see the extent and the distance the fire has traveled over the past couple days," said Cal Fire spokesman Lt. Doug Pittman.

Pittman with Cal Fire gave ABC7 News a ride through Lower Lake showing us the path the fire took when it roared into town. More than 175 structures have been destroyed and 4,000 were acres scorched. Most of the area is still off-limits with thousands forced to evacuate.

RELATED: Police arrest man accused of starting Clayton Fire

"It's not as if we can just open the door and allow people to come home. There are a lot of people and a lot of organizations that have a voice when it will be safe to come home," Pittman said.

PG&E crews are working to restore power. Firefighters are still putting out spot fires. Helicopters are dropping retardant from above.

Meanwhile, police believe an arsonist is to blame. They arrested Puhshilk of Clearlake, who's suspected in other fires as well.

RELATED: Gov. Brown declares State of Emergency in Lake County due to Clayton Fire

"I was glad he was arrested. It's not right, but he'll get what's coming to him eventually," said Lower Lake business owner Josh Weidner

Dignitaries from the sheriff's office, the National Guard, and the governor's Office of Emergency Services were escorted through the devastated town.

"You know it's heartbreaking and it really drives home the point how important it is we work as one team to come in and help these communities get back on their feet as soon as we can," said Mark Ghilarducci of the Office of Emergency Services.

After seeing the damage first hand, they can now put together a plan of how to rebuild and get people home. That plan includes debris pickup, shelter for evacuees and for people who lost their homes, and replacing important documents such as IDs.

For full information on school closures, evacuation centers, and donation information, click here.

Click here for full coverage on the Clayton Fire and click here for full coverage on last year's Valley Fire.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.