Trabuco Canyon Man Acquitted of Arson Charges, Convicted of Criminal Threats in Holy Fire Case

A Trabuco Canyon man accused of starting the massive Holy Fire in 2018 is acquitted of arson charges but convicted of criminal threats.

In a highly publicized trial, Forrest Gordon Clark, a resident of Trabuco Canyon, has been acquitted of arson charges but found guilty of making criminal threats in connection with the devastating Holy Fire that burned 23,000 acres and destroyed 18 structures.

During the trial, Clark’s defense attorney argued that law enforcement experts hastily accused him and pointed to alternative theories suggesting the fire may have been sparked by a passing truck’s exhaust or a discarded cigarette. Defense experts conducted a more thorough investigation, indicating the fire started along a roadway, not in the neighboring cabin.

Prosecutors alleged that Clark set fire to his neighbor’s cabin and presented evidence, including a recording of Clark making threats against his neighbor. Despite being convicted of criminal threats, Clark was acquitted of aggravated arson charges.

During the sentencing, the judge rejected the request to delay it for a victim impact statement, as Clark had already served a significant amount of time in custody. Clark was sentenced to two years, taking into account his credits for time served. The judge also clarified that parole reporting was not required.

Clark expressed dissatisfaction with the sentence and stated his intention to appeal the conviction. The case has drawn significant attention due to the magnitude of the Holy Fire and the legal proceedings surrounding it.