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Crews Gain Ground On Clayton Fire In Lake County

LOWER LAKE, Lake County (CBS / AP) – Fire crews gained some significant ground on a massive Northern California wildfire that has destroyed 175 homes, businesses and other structures and charred nearly 7 square miles.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says the fire in Lower Lake, about a two-hour drive from San Francisco, was 20 percent contained as of early Tuesday morning.

• PHOTOS: Clayton Fire Burns Lake County

The progress came as authorities arrested 40-year-old Damin Anthony Pashilk of Clearlake on 17 counts of arson Monday. Pashilk is suspected of sparking the blaze that exploded over the weekend. Officials say he is also suspected in several other fires over the past year in Lake County.

Damin Anthony Pashilk - Clayton Fire Suspected Arsonist
Damin Anthony Pashilk of Clearlake is suspected of setting the Clayton Fire in Lake County on August 13, 2016. (CBS)

The charges against Pashilk carry enhancements because of the homes and businesses destroyed.

At least 175 structures were destroyed by the Clayton Fire. That number is likely to grow once crews get into the neighborhoods hardest hit and make more accurate assessments of the damage.

4,000 people are still under evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon.

"There is a process. Its not like you open the door and allow everyone to come back in at some point," said Cal Fire spokesperson Lt. Doug Pittman.

Cal Fire is projecting full containment of the fire by this Sunday.

Wade Holley owns an auto repair shop in downtown Lower Lake. While there's plenty of damage on his lot, the building is still standing.

"I feel really lucky compared to most of the people around here," said Holley.

He's been holding down the fort in a virtual ghost town since Sunday.

"Making sure stuff didn't get stolen, putting out hot spots," explained Holley.

But the recovery process is underway. PG&E is flying in 16 new transmission poles to replace those that have burned.

"It's an area that we can't access by trucks because the terrain is just too difficult, so we have to fly in," said PG&E Spokesperson Lynsey Paulo.

Holley's shop is among the 700 buildings without power Tuesday afternoon as he waits for some sense of normalcy to return.

"I hope it don't take too long," said Holley. "We're kind of a strong community, so I hope it all pulls together for us."

Roughly 1,600 firefighters are battling the blaze Tuesday through warm temperatures and light winds.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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