Man arrested over California wildfires, told firefighter 'this place will burn'

A 51-year-old man has been arrested after a wildfire destroyed more than 1600 hectares of bush in Holy Jim Canyon, California.

Forrest Gordon Clark, who lived in the area, was arrested on Tuesday and is facing charges of one count of aggravated arson, one count of criminal threats, and two counts of resisting an executive officer through force or threats, CBS News reports.

Those charges mean he could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.

The specific cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but local officials say Clark made threats about lighting fires in the past.

Volunteer fire chief Mike Milligan told the Orange County Register Clark has long feuded with neighbours and last week ran through the area screaming.

Clark also sent Mr Milligan an email saying "this place will burn".

The Holy Jim Canyon fire has been burning since Monday (local time). Authorities believe it is around 5 percent contained and is being fed by dry bush that has not burned in nearly four decades.

It is being fought by 10 helicopters, seven fixed-wing aircraft, and almost 400 firefighters. Authorities were unimpressed by the possibility it could have been lit deliberately.

"This is a monster. Who would go out with low humidity and high wind and the highest heat temperatures this time of the year, and intentionally set the forest on fire?" said county supervisor Todd Spitzer.

"I suppose if your name has 'forest' in it, maybe it's not relevant to you. The irony here is not lost on me, that his name is Forrest Gordon Clark, but he's literally destroyed our forest."